Sunshine Tour

Stone dominates in Leopard Creek win

2016-12-04 17:00
Brandon Stone (Getty Images)

Malelane - He gave the belly of the sculpture of a young leopard about to make a kill a tickle as he passed it on the 16th tee on Sunday, and it was if Brandon Stone recognised the golfing predator in himself as he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek by a yawning seven strokes.

In fact, Stone was more prey than hunter at the start of the day with a three-stroke lead over his nearest pursuers, but he skipped away from them with a final round of four-under-par 68 to be in another league with his winning score of 22-under-par from second-placed Richard Sterne, and Belgian Thomas Detry was a further two strokes back in third.

Despite that gap, Stone said afterwards that he wasn’t really sure of victory until he walked over the bridge to the island green on the par-five 18th. “I’ve seen many a player hit it into the water in the lake surrounding this green,” he said.

And to make absolutely sure he didn’t add his name to that list of players who came to grief there, he had to play what he probably thinks is the least brave golf shot he’s ever played. “It’s not often you have to hit a little 85-yard lay-up on a par-five,” he laughed. “When I hit the tee shot, I really wanted it to go in the rough. I hit it so well, and I didn’t want it to get close, I didn’t want to have a shot in so I had to lay up.”

As he and caddie Chris Simmons walked to the ball, Stone mooted the idea of going for the green. His caddie handed him his 58 degree wedge and pointed to the left side of the fairway. So dialled in were Stone’s wedges during the week, that he nearly holed his pitch and was left with a virtual tap-in for the victory.

“Any time you get a victory on home soil, it’s massive,” he said. “I won the SA Open at the start of the year and there was a little more fire in my belly at the beginning of this week to end the year strong. Leopard Creek is an incredible place and I’ve love coming here since I was a kid carrying my Dad’s bag. So to have my name on the trophy now is obviously very special, but it’s tough to sum up how the emotions are running right now.”

To get the job done, he had to see off the attentions of the four-time Leopard Creek champion Charl Schwartzel, and after the 2011 Masters champion had gone through six holes, he’d drawn level with Stone. But Schwartzel’s game was strangely off – especially through the homeward nine, on which he had scored so well all week – and when he dropped six shots in four holes from 13 to 16, the game was up.

Sterne, the 2008 champion at Leopard Creek, showed that he’s close to his best again as he closed with a 67, and Detry, a graduate from the Challenge Tour, capped a great start to his rookie season. “I would have taken a top 10 but now to be in the top five is just amazing,” said the Belgian. “Good start and just got to keep doing what I am doing.”

For the champion, the rest of the holiday season will be about savouring what he’s achieved in 2016. And then preparing to do more in 2017. “I’ll give myself maybe a week of rest and then I’m going to get back into preparation,” he said. “I’ve got a stern task ahead of me with Rory McIlroy coming out to the BMW SA Open.”

Scores:

266 - Brandon Stone 67 66 66 67

273 - Richard Sterne 68 70 68 67

275 - Thomas Detry 69 71 67 68

276 - Graeme Storm 73 67 68 68, Thomas Aiken 69 67 71 69, Carlos Pigem 68 69 70 69, Scott Jamieson 67 71 69 69, Benjamin Hebert 70 66 68 72, Charl Schwartzel 66 68 68 74

277 - Bryce Easton 70 69 67 71

278 - Jaco Ahlers 68 70 74 66, Paul Maddy 74 69 70 65, Bernd Ritthammer 72 69 69 68, David Drysdale 70 71 64 73, Chris Hanson 69 65 68 76, Keith Horne 69 66 67 76

279 - Dean Burmester 68 72 71 68, Sebastian Heisele 70 72 66 71, Alexander Bjork 67 69 71 72

280 - Espen Kofstad 70 73 67 70, Ulrich van den Berg 70 70 68 72, Branden Grace 69 67 71 73

281 - Joel Stalter 70 69 68 74, Pablo Larrazabal 67 70 69 75

282 - Matthieu Pavon 72 69 71 70, Dylan Frittelli 68 71 72 71, Jake Roos 71 70 68 73

283 - Richard S Johnson 72 69 71 71, Paul Dunne 66 73 72 72, Ashley Chesters 72 71 67 73, JC Ritchie 70 69 68 76

284 - George Coetzee 70 65 76 73, Tjaart van der Walt 69 72 70 73, Erik van Rooyen 71 70 69 74, Jbe' Kruger 71 70 73 70, Max Orrin 67 73 69 75

285 - Richard Mcevoy 72 66 72 75, Michael Hoey 69 71 70 75, Damien Perrier 69 73 71 72, Keenan Davidse 73 70 71 71, Garth Mulroy 69 73 73 70, Vaughn Groenewald 70 73 73 69

286 - Pontus Widegren 71 71 74 70

287 - Jean-Paul Strydom 70 72 70 75, Colin Nel 68 75 70 74, Gregory Havret 70 73 72 72, Rhys West 70 73 75 69

288 - Jean Hugo 67 69 76 76, Jeff Winther 71 71 68 78, Neil Schietekat 70 72 72 74

289 - Justin Harding 68 71 73 77, Madalitso Muthiya 70 71 72 76, Doug McGuigan 70 70 74 75, Clement Sordet 73 69 73 74, Christofer Blomstrand 72 71 74 72

290 - Jamie Rutherford 68 75 71 76, Nathan Kimsey 69 69 76 76, Andrew Curlewis 75 68 72 75, Simon Griffiths 73 70 74 73, Zander Lombard 74 68 76 72, Christiaan Bezuidenhout 70 67 84 69

291 - Hennie du Plessis 73 69 74 75

292 - Chris Swanepoel 76 66 74 76, Jens Fahrbring 70 72 75 75, Callum Mowat 73 70 75 74, Ockie Strydom 72 71 80 69

293 - Morten Orum Madsen 72 70 76 75

294 - Matthew Nixon 71 72 78 73, Peter Karmis 70 71 81 72

295 - Adrien Saddier 68 74 76 77, Shaun Norris 71 72 81 71

296 - Anthony Michael 69 72 74 81

 

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