• ‘Excited’ Stone ready to defend

    Brandon Stone
    Stone was electric here two years ago

    Brandon Stone is aiming to capitalise on the changes made to the Leopard Creek as he defends his title at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

    The event returns to the European Tour this week, after a year’s break due to extensive renovations.

    ‘The changes that have been made are fantastic,’ he said after playing the pro-am on Tuesday.

    ‘The new grass is one of my favourite grasses around the world. The greens are a little bit tricky. The grass has not quite grown in completely. They are all over the place, but the condition of the golf course is 10 out of 10. It should be a fun week.

    ‘It is obviously fantastic to come back here as a defending champion. Anytime it’s a privilege to come here. Leopard Creek is quite special.  With all the changes, Mr Rupert wasn’t too happy about me winning by seven last time.’ he laughed.

    In what was his hottest season on both the Sunshine Tour and European Tour season in 2016, Stone claimed the South African Open title at the start of the year, and book-ended his season with a victory at Leopard Creek to claim the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

    He harbours some good memories from his last appearance here, and says while some may have faded away, he can still remember some of the shots he played during that week in Mpumalanga.

    ‘I do go back to the memories of my win here. It was quite fun,’ said Stone, who is currently ranked 114 on the Official World Golf Rankings. ‘I can’t really remember much about the day. It was more of a blur. It was kind of woke up, teed off and then I feel like 15 minutes later I was walking down the 18th fairway kind of situation. But I obviously have a lot of tremendous memories walking around.

    ‘I think overall, anytime you get to come here, it is special. The environment is so relaxed. You feel like your entire aura, your entire energy just seems to chill down a few notches and you just feel comfortable whether that would be on a Monday, Tuesday or whether come Sunday afternoon, you just feel that you are at that ease level,’ he added.

    The 25-year-old player was happy to have hit a great approach to the 18th hole in the pro-am.

    ‘I hit four-iron in and managed to stuff it.

    ‘I hit a big high cut to try to hold the green and managed to sneak in on the back edge there.  I am not too sure if I will have the balls to do it on Sunday, but it is definitely fantastic to know that I can pull the shots off when it comes down to that.’

    Stone is confident about his game following the share of seventh at the South African Open Championship last week.

    ‘I am excited for the week. My game is feeling like it is in a good, sound, very stable position at the moment,’ he said.

    ‘I really feel like I am swinging the club nicely. It feels like the putting stroke is slowly coming back to me. I managed to hole a few more putts on the weekend at the SA Open. It feels like it is all coming together. I really wish it was not the end of the season and more the start of the season to try and capitalise on that.’

    Photo: Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images

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