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Stone continues Al Mouj love affair

Stone continues Al Mouj love affair

Brandon Stone is loving life in the desert after firing an opening 67 at the 2020 Oman Open on a course that he regards as one of his favourites in all the world.

Brandon Stone

Al Mouj Golf has become a fixture on the European and Challenge Tours in recent years, hosting the Challenge Tour Grand Finals from 2015-2017 and the Oman Open since its inaugural staging in 2018.

It was 2015 when Stone finished sixth at the Grand Final en route to graduating onto the European Tour and last season at this event he finished in the top 35 despite firing an 80 on Saturday.

He was bogey free with five birdies in day one this time around and cut a happy figure as he looks for a fourth European Tour win.

"I’m always going to have a soft spot for this golf course," he said. "This is where I earned my playing rights from the Challenge Tour so I have some history here and I played nicely here last year too.

"I love the course - it’s in my top five in the world, if I’m being honest, and every year coming back is an absolute pleasure."

The South African finished 103rd on last season's Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex as he had his first full European Tour season without a win.

But he was not disheartened and feels his work in 2019 will pay dividends further down the line despite missing three of his last four cuts.

"Last year was a fantastic year for me - even though the results weren’t there - because we put a lot of structure in place, physically and mentally," he said.

Rounds like today make me sit back and think ‘that’s it, that’s what we’re after’ - a bogey free 67 on a tricky golf course that can bite you, I’m a very happy man

"We did it to transform me as a person as well as a golfer and I feel like the base work is there at the moment. My game feels fantastic and I’m feeling physically the best I ever have. 

"I’m really happy with where my game is at the moment and it shows with my recent results - and even though I missed the cut in Dubai and Saudi Arabia I felt like I played decent golf. 

"It’s a different perspective to how it was two years ago when I would miss the cut and feel down and seclude myself in a hotel room for two days with the curtains closed! 

"Now I’m often optimistic on a Saturday morning going back to practise because everything feels so close. And rounds like today make me sit back and think ‘that’s it, that’s what we’re after’ - a bogey free 67 on a tricky golf course that can bite you, I’m a very happy man."

Rasmus Højgaard had missed four cuts in a row since winning the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open but he went bogey free in the afternoon to join Stone at five under.

The Danish teenager became the third youngest winner ever on the European Tour in Mauritus and is now looking to make more history.

"The conditions when I started out were a bit tricky," he said. "The wind was up a little bit so it was a bit of a battle but I got through it.

"This course quite wide from the tee box, which is very nice, and I’m putting well. You have to have good speed on the greens out here because you’re going to be faced with some long putts. That was the key today.

"It might have come as a little surprise that I won so early on the European Tour, but I was playing well in my last year as an amateur and I carried that confidence into the professional game. My goal this year is to be the Rookie of the Year and have multiple wins, so that’s what I’m chasing."

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