JOHANNESBURG – Brandon Stone’s ascendance in the golfing fraternity in South Africa has been impressive, yet this week he faces the most daunting challenge of his young career, as he makes his debut at the US Open, at Erin Hills, Wisconsin on Thursday.
On one of the most challenging courses and against the elite of world golf, Brandon Stone will enter into a major championship tournament for the third time, after failing to make the cut at the Open Championship and the PGA Championship in 2016.
While he has become a household name on the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, Stone, 24, has not fired in America on the PGA Tour, missing the cut twice in his three starts this season.
Stone will have to compete against accomplished winners such as Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel.
Packed with 138 bunkers across the layout, this championship course will give little room for error, with the United States Golf Association (USGA) noting the official yardage for Erin Hills to be 7,741 yards.
That would make it the longest course in the tournament’s 117 years, if it will be played at that length. This could favour young and strong hitters like Stone.
While Stone has won twice in 59 starts on the European Tour and finished in the top-10 seven more times between last season and this season, America is a different test altogether.
His maiden European Tour title came in only his second start as a full member, defeating fellow South African, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, by two shots at the BMW SA Open hosted by Glendower Golf Club in January 2016. In December 2016, Stone took the Alfred Dunhill Championship title at Leopard Creek in Mpumalanga.
Notwithstanding the boost to his confidence, his success on other tours may count for little in Wisconsin this week. He may be reassured, though, by the presence of compatriots in the field who have tasted victory at this level. He can look to players like two-time winner Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel, a runner-up at this event, for more inspiration.