Marriage agrees with Stone
The South African is in contention on the Old Course at St Andrews
● In his first tournament back since his wedding, the honeymoon continues for Brandon Stone.
The young South African was sporting a wedding ring for the first time in front of European Tour television as he talked through a 65 on the Old Course of St Andrews yesterday that has him in a share of seventh in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and five shots off the 14-under-par lead of England’s
But while the wedding ring is something new, Stone’s position on a leaderboard in Scotland is becoming quite familiar. And for someone who admits he had to teach himself how to play and enjoy links golf, he heads into Sunday’s final round fast becoming a young master at the purest form of the game.
In July Stone won the Scottish Open for the third European Tour title of his career, and with an incredible 60 in the final round.
“If you’d told me five years ago that I would enjoy playing links golf I would’ve said no ways. I seem to have found my way of playing links golf, which has been a lot of fun. I love the creative aspect of it. You hit shots here that you don’t hit anywhere else in the world. It’s something you can’t really teach somebody. You have to learn it yourself. It’s taken me the better part of a decade to come up with my way of playing links
I seem to have found my way of playing links golf, which has been a lot of fun. I love the creative aspect of it. You hit shots here you don’t hit anywhere else
golf,” said Stone.
That win also marked the first time that Stone felt he could finally lift his head from what he says was the toughest 18 months of his career before this.
After racing to two European Tour titles, one Sunshine Tour Order of Merit title with record earnings of over R7m, and making history as a member of SA’s first Olympic golf team all by the age of 23, Stone felt he had begun driving himself harder than even his own ambition could keep up with.
“I struggled with the results I wasn’t getting on the golf course, and got quite down on myself. I just didn’t feel good about myself. So three weeks before the Scottish Open I made a conscious decision to start treating myself a bit better and stop putting myself under so much pressure to perform.”
The relaxed nature of this celebrity proam tournament has proved the perfect environment for this.
Both Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood, members of the victorious European Ryder Cup team, have described the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as the best event to follow the intensity of the Ryder Cup.
Fleetwood is among those chasing Hatton from his total of 11-under, while Australia’s Marcus Fraser is the nearest challenger on 13-under.
Stone is also clear on what he’s up against today, and it’s not just going to be the weather. For only the fourth time in European Tour history the final round will feature a shotgun start and an earlier tee-off to beat the grim forecast of high winds. Then there is the matter of Hatton, who loves links golf, and clearly loves this tournament as he seeks to become the first three-time winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, having triumphed in 2016 and 2017.
The last golfer to do that on the European Tour — excluding World Golf Championship events — was Ernie Els in the Heineken Classic from 2002-2004.
“I’ve felt very much in control this week. Hopefully I can keep playing solid golf and putting well like I have been,” said Stone.
“Look, anytime you get to walk on the 18th green of the Old Course in a tournament on a Sunday is quite special, and to do so and be in contention would be fantastic.”