SA's Brandon Stone is hoping he can recapture his 2017 win thus year. Photo: Michael Sherman/African News Agency (ANA)

MALELANE – Brandon Stone is in a very good space with regard to his game as he looks to defend the Alfred Dunhill Championship which starts at the new-look Leopard Creek Country Club on Thursday.

The South African won this event in the 2017 season, but has had to wait two years to make his defence as the layout underwent extensive changes.

“I am excited for the week,” he said. 

“My game is feeling like it is in a good, sound, very stable position at the moment. 

"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 South African Open Championship. 

"It feels like it is all coming together.”

Despite the alterations, the property on the edge of the Kruger National Park still has a feeling like no other on the European Tour, and Stone is itching to get started.

“It is fantastic to come back here as a defending champion,” he said. 

“It is a privilege to come here, Leopard Creek is quite special.

“They have made a lot of changes. 

"Obviously (owner) Mr Johann Rupert wasn’t too happy about me winning by seven last time! 

“The changes that have been made are fantastic. 

"The new grass is one of my favourite grasses around the world. 

"The condition of the golf course is 10 out of 10. 

"It should be a fun week.

“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.”

Stone's maiden Rolex Series victory at the Scottish Open propelled him to a career-high finish of 25th on the 2018 Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.

He started the new campaign with a top-10 at the South African Open and he feels he is ready to extend his winning run to four consecutive seasons.

“It feels like I really wish that it was not the end of the season and more the start of the season to try and capitalise on that. 

"But, hopefully, over the Christmas break, I can just build on these good results and see if I come up with some in January.” 

African News Agency (ANA)