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Beginner’s luck: Branden Grace gets an ace in first-ever WMPO

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Known for the huge crowds and the stadium-like atmosphere that fills TPC Scottsdale, the tournament provides a daunting task for those fighting for position in the field.

While there’s really no way to prepare for the environment, the veterans of the WMPO at least know what to expect.

The other guys? They’ve only heard tales and seen tapes of the madness.

Enter Branden Grace.

Grace, looking to rid the taste of his Farmers Insurance Open outing — he missed the cut — had two choices.

Take a week off to fine tune things or get back at it and head to the desert.

“I played badly and I just thought to myself, ‘just enter for this week,'” Grace said after his round on Friday. “At the beginning of the week, I told my caddie, Craig [Connelly], I said ‘I just have a feeling we should play. Just get on the train and keep on going.'”

Good call, Grace.

After posting a four-under round Thursday, the South African followed it up Friday, going seven-under.

And while his 64 is impressive, it was the seventh hole that stole the show.

Looking at 194-yard par-3 and one-over on the day, Grace went for the seven-iron.

But what are caddies for?

Instead, Connelly said a flush eight-iron was the number.

And it was as Grace drained the hole-in-one.

“I felt really good over the shot, I hit a great shot, and the guys behind the hole actually started jumping up before the ball actually went in,” Grace said after the ace. “[It was] only my third one ever so it was great and obviously what a nice place to have one.”

That’s one way to get some strokes back in a hurry.

It was clear the ace helped get Grace in the zone as he rattled off four birdies and an eagle on the back nine. He’s seven-under on the par 5’s alone, to end up tied for third with Trey Mullinax.

Grace trails only Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas with Round 3 set for Saturday.

The real question, however, is when’s he buying drinks for the make?