Brandon Stone finally put his clubs to work this week as he ramps up preparation for his return to European Tour action. 2020 still has plenty to offer the Rolex Series event winner, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
The 27-year-old has emerged from months on the sideline full of vigour. When the Tour was halted, he was starting to see his off-course work yield results particularly in his penultimate event where he was thwarted in a playoff at the Oman Open.
Since then, it’s been the life of most peers his age. At home with family passing the time. Following the announcement of the new-look European Tour schedule, Stone made plans to leave his South African base and return to London with his wife ahead of getting back to work.
‘We left South Africa a few weeks ago which was quite tricky with everything going on. Two weeks in our apartment in the UK was very different to lockdown in South Africa … no garden, no dogs running around. [Laughs] No coffee spots yet,’ he tells Compleat Golfer.
While professional golf in South Africa remains very much on the sidelines, the incentive to hit the ground running in the UK leg of the European Tour has arguably never been greater. Another crack at the US Open is a sizeable carrot to ensure maximum effort on the range.
‘We are very happy to be over the self-isolation phase. And getting back to Queenwood was special, it’s the first time I’ve been at the range and getting turf on to my clubs in a long, long time. It was unbelievable and it felt good to practise.
‘The lockdown made me miss “the office” and watching the ball fly through the air. I’ve got a lot of work to do. I need to get my game sharp and play as much golf as I can. This season has turned out to be a very “different” year. My goals remain high for the restart. Sort of the same as what it was before the pandemic halted everything.’
My 2 week UK quarantine is finally over 🇬🇧 It’s been great playing Call of Duty all day with my friends back in SA, but now it’s time to move some dirt …. 🏌🏼 pic.twitter.com/XepaltAU9s
— Brandon Stone (@BrandonMStone) July 6, 2020
The coronavirus has caused the world’s leading tours to scramble and rearrange dates with the US Open forced to rejig their normal qualifying process. Now, the top 10 in the new ‘mini order of merit’ at the end of the Wales Open at Celtic Manor will be exempt for the rescheduled US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club on 17-20 September.
‘The massive target is US Open qualification. That rests on how the British swing goes. I’m in the top 20 in the Race to Dubai which is fantastic,’ adds Stone.
‘Beyond that, it’s trying to get back into the top 100 and then top 50 in the world. I’m just trying to be better than I was before. Certainly I have an eye on ending the campaign inside the top 20 in the Race to Dubai for the first time in my career.
‘I’m not putting any limits on how much I can achieve even though there’s been so many disruptions. There’s a lot of golf to be played between now and December and looking at coming back to the Nedbank Golf Challenge and vying for that and a potential top-50 place in the world is the ideal goal.