Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Brandon Stone  (Getty Images)
Brandon Stone (Getty Images)

Brandon Stone is hoping to use home comforts to his advantage when he goes in search of back-to-back European Tour wins at the Joburg Open.

The Challenge Tour graduate claimed an emotional maiden win at the BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni last week, becoming the 13th South African winner in 20 events since the tournament joined The European Tour International Schedule in 1997.

Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club has also proved a happy hunting ground for South Africans with six of the nine Joburg Opens being won by home players, including five of the last six.

Two-time champion Richard Sterne and 2014 winner George Coetzee join Stone in leading the home challenge this week and the 22 year old is hoping local knowledge will once again prove useful.

"I played the Joburg Open last year and did okay," he said. "It's always been a course I've been very fond of, Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, it's a golf course that really suits my game, very similar to Glendower, a few more add-ons here and there, but I feel comfortable here.

You always feel comfortable when you sleep in your own bed, when you come to a tournament and a course you've played many times - Brandon Stone

The Joburg Open is one of only two tournaments on the calendar, along with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, to be played over more than one course, with players tackling the East and West Course over Thursday and Friday before sticking to the East for the weekend.

And while Stone will be looking to make hay on the West Course on Thursday, he sees both layouts as a big challenge.

"I think they're both good," he said. "I think the West is obviously a little bit lower scoring typically, which suits me to a tee. I do enjoy going low in a few rounds.

"The East is a fantastic golf course, not only off the tee, but your approach shots have to be on point which is quite unique for a golf course that has both tight tee shots and approaches. The course is in great condition so it's going to be a good week.

"The West Course, although it is an easier course, it's not easy. It just shows how tricky and how tough the East Course is. Typically scoring at this event is really low because there is one round at the West, but it's no slouch."

Stone has been grouped with Ernie Els over the first two days as the four-time Major Champion makes his debut at the event, and the rookie is excited by the prospect of teeing it up with one of his heroes.

"I get to play with the guy I've grown up watching," he said. "I just saw the draw now and it's the first time I'm ever going to play with Ernie in a tournament. It's going to be really special. Really, really special.

"To watch him play and watch this guy who I've grown up idolising, make his way around a golf course like this, it's going to be unique and quite fun."

Daniel Brooks pushed Stone all the way at Glendower Golf Club before finishing in third as he went in search of a second European Tour title amid the stormy conditions.

It was the Englishman's first event of the 2016 campaign and he is hoping to gain some momentum during his second week in Gauteng.

"I've not played a lot of golf the last couple of months and I've been thrown straight into the deep end," he said. "I've been a bit rusty, but it was exciting. It was a good week in the end.

"Start of the week I'd have ripped your arm off for third place. Overall I was quite happy. Obviously I was a bit disappointed on the last hole for the bogey but third at the end of the day is not a bad result.

"I'm still swinging it quite nicely and hitting it well, and my putting has been quite nice over the last week or so. When the greens are good it feels easier, so hopefully I'll  just keep going, same as last week.

"Last week I putted really well which kept me going. I holed quite a few par putts last week. You know if you're holing a few ten-footers for par then it keeps the momentum going. I was making the birdie putts as well when I did hit it quite close so that was nice. But overall, last week everything was quite strong."

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