Branden Grace is in the midst of a dream season on the European Tour. Just a year removed from the Challenge Tour, the South African won his first two events of the season, and followed it up with a third to become the third-youngest player in tour history to pick up three wins in the same year.
That's heady stuff from a 24-year-old playing on Europe's biggest stage. Grace likely would've been content with the three wins and starts at the U.S. Open and British Open, but earlier this week, he got to experience another first that, based on his comments, made an impression on him: Playing with Tiger Woods.
Grace, who's in the field at the Bridgestone Invitational, had the opportunity to play with Woods over the first three days of the tournament. He called the pairing a "dream come true," which isn't that big of a surprise since other young guys, like Thorbjorn Olesen at the British Open, have gushed about playing with Woods in the past. It was actually what Grace said after Saturday's round that made you turn your head and say "huh"?
"I hadn't played with him before, but now, to have played with him three days in a row, has been unreal," Grace said. "I've learned a hell of a lot from playing with him. The way he plays shots, the way he handles himself and things like that, has been great. He's there because he is the best in the world. I've seen it now, and I think people really criticize him, that is wrong. He's one hell of a guy, and he's pretty much the nicest guy I've ever played with."
The nicest guy I've ever played with? Woods has been called a lot of things over his career. But the nicest? This is the same 14-time major winner who used to rip out the heart of his opponent, stomp on it, and then toss it in the trash. Woods has certainly changed over the last couple of years, but it's hard to believe his demeanor has made him approachable and, dare we say, the nicest guy ever -- especially when he steps on the course.
But, hey, Grace is entitled to his own opinion on Tiger Woods. If he wants to say Woods is the nicest guy ever, go for it! It's just difficult to envision a cold, calculated assassin being, well ... super nice.