After a highly profitable season on the European Tour – highlighted by his Scottish Open victory – Brandon Stone was asked on Wednesday if he now no longer finds it daunting teeing up in the tour’s biggest and most lucrative events.
Much like the $7-million Turkish Airlines Open beginning Thursday at the Regnum Carya Golf Resort.
“Actually, I’ve never been daunted by how important the tournament is, or who’s playing, or how tough the course might be,” he said candidly.
“I really thrive when the cameras are on me and I’m in contention. That’s when I play my best golf.”
And right there is one of the secrets to the 25-year-old’s success which has earned him nearly 1,5-million euros in prize-money – the equivalent of about R24-million – on the European Tour alone in 2018.
Stone talks a good deal about “our success” and “we won”, or “we played well”.
He is very aware of the team around him – coach Jamie Gough, South African caddie Teaghan Gauche, physio, manager, new wife Anette, whatever and whoever.
Stone, nick-named Pebbles all his life, was out on the range early Wednesday morning with the 53-year-old swing guru that is Gough.
“Goughie and I have been working together since last year and we’ve made a few swing adjustments – nothing major but important little changes to simplify my game and make my legs more stable.”
After his sensational final round 60 to win the Scottish Open at Gullane, Stone went on to play well at Major level, with a tie for 12th in the US PGA Championship a month later.
Then came a six-week break to recharge his batteries and, far more importantly, get married.
He looks back on the Scottish Open victory – where that 60 was preceded by rounds of 70, 64 and 66 for a 260 birdie-blitzing aggregate – with a good deal of pride.
“One of my goals at the beginning of this year was to win abroad, on the European stage, and to do so on a links course, on turf unfamiliar to what I’m used to in South Africa, against the best players in the world at that week in Europe, was pretty special.”
Eight South Africans are in this week’s Turkish Airlines Open line-up – Stone, Darren Fichardt, George Coetzee, Richard Sterne, Trevor Immelman, Dean Burmester, Thomas Aiken and Erik van Rooyen who has had a fine debut season on the European Tour.
Stone is currently 18th in the Race to Dubai but believes good golf over the next three weeks could see him move up in the rankings.
“Top 10, maybe top five – let’s see if we can make some birdies.”