Cape Town - Brandon Stone is back to defend the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open title, which is set to tee off on Thursday.
He followed that maiden victory by winning the South African Open Championship, and he was catapulted onto the world stage, where he finished his first year on The European Tour in 50th place, and he’s the highest-ranked player in the field this week.
“The year has flown by,” he said. “I can’t believe it’s a year ago since I won here. It’s going to be a very special week for me, and a new experience because I haven’t felt what it’s like to be a defending champion yet.”
While the end of the season on The European Tour didn’t bring him the kinds of results he would have hoped for, he’s confident that a turnaround in his fortunes is imminent.
“The scoring hasn’t been great, but I feel like I’ve been playing some good golf. The swing feels great and the putting is really starting to feel good again - that should worry the guys I’m playing against,” he laughed.
He’s going to have all three previous champions ranged against him: Jake Roos won the inaugural tournament in 2012 in a four-way play-off, and Tjaart van der Walt took his maiden Sunshine Tour title the next year, while Jaco Ahlers followed in 2014.
In addition, four-time US PGA Tour winner Heath Slocum has made the trip to the Mother City to get his career back on track after a lengthy break from action, and he can’t speak highly enough of everything he’s encountered so far.
“The course is amazing,” Slocum said. “It’s such a great golf course with the tree lines, it’s got some great dog-legs, and the wind’s going to dictate, and it’s going to be a really good test. It’s just amazing to come across such a professionally run tour.”
For Stone, the wind is just one of the challenges the week will pose.
“There’s some thick rough out there,” Stone said. “There are some patches out there that will eat your ball up, so you’ve got to keep it on the straight and narrow.”
That’s the secret to success on any golf course.