SAUDI ARABIA – He may have been disappointed to have missed the cuts in the last two events on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but 25-year-old Brandon Stone has decided to put all that behind him heading into this week’s $3.5 million Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
Stone put his disappoints down to “poor putting” but has been working on the “short” stick in Dubai and also on his arrival in Saudi Arabia, where he seems to have fallen in love with this newest “jewel” in the desert.
Royal Greens is not a long course and he found it surprising that there are just two par-5 and many short par-4s on this 7000-yard layout.
But he says: “There are a number of tricky holes on this well laid out and immaculately built course. It’s a course you feel you could win a tournament and I’m going into this event feeling good. I’ve worked hard in Dubai and here this week. I’m looking forward to the week.”
Yesterday he planned a nine-hole practice in the warm morning sun but ended up playing 18 in preparation for what could be a terrific contest starting tomorrow.
“I had planned nine holes overnight but as I played each hole it gave me a better feel. I liked the layout as I continued on my journey,” said the three-time winner on European Tour.
“It turned out to be exciting and... I have a good feel of the course. Like most of the players for this week’s tournament, I hadn’t seen the course before, though there was a lot of talk about it. It’s nicely set up and I’ve taken a liking to it.”
Stone, winner of the SA Open in 2016, the Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2017, and the Scottish Open last year, will be hunting his first win of the 2019 season and what better way it would be than to win this inaugural event.
Missing the cuts at the Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic are far from his mind now and he is focused on this week.
“That’s in the past now. I didn’t putt well in those tournaments and it was disappointing to miss the cut. But this week it’s a new beginning. I did a lot of work back in Dubai and feel that my game is in good shape - the putting is getting better. We worked a lot on it,” he said.
What excites the South African is the fact that some of the top players in the world are competing here this week and that there are a lot of world ranking points at stake.
He said it’s great to see the top players here - the likes of Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, the No 1, 2, 3, and 5 in the world - as it gives the tournament a boost and an incentive to play against them.
Admittedly he has not played as well as he had expected so far this year, but believes he has many tournaments ahead of him to attain his goal of qualifying for the US Masters. It’s the only Major he has not played in thus far in his short but successful professional career.
“I know I’m not nearly near the top 50 in the world rankings but I know I’m not far away from it either,” he said confidently.
“There are few more tournaments to put things right and hopefully I’ll be there as my game is taking shape and I’m feeling great as we go into this week’s event.
“Augusta is where I want to be and the work has begun for that ultimate goal.”