Saturday 3 December 2016

Stone throws it away before fighting back to take title

Phil Casey

Published 11/01/2016 | 02:30

Brandon Stone poses with the South African Open trophy following his victory in the BMW SA Open at Glendower Golf Club, Johannesburg. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Brandon Stone poses with the South African Open trophy following his victory in the BMW SA Open at Glendower Golf Club, Johannesburg. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Brandon Stone was almost at a loss for words after recovering from losing a five-shot lead to win the BMW SA Open after a remarkable final round in Johannesburg.

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Stone fired a closing 71 at Glendower Golf Club to finish 14 under par, two ahead of fellow South African Christian Bezuidenhout, with England's Daniel Brooks a shot behind in third after a bogey on the 18th.

The 22-year-old carded seven birdies, six bogeys and just five pars as he went from five shots ahead to two behind in the space of seven holes, before four birdies in the next five secured his first European Tour title.

"I don't have the vocab to describe how I feel right now," Stone said. "That round was the most up-and-down round that I've ever had in my life, without a doubt in my mind.

"Walking up to the 18th made me think about how the last few years have been. They've been up and down and up and down and just to pull it through at the end there, I can't describe it."

Stone, who was embraced by his father and grandfather beside the 18th green, added: "I know that my gramps and my dad, this means as much to them as it means to me. Having them here just makes it that much more special."

Thunderstorms

After play was disrupted by afternoon thunderstorms for the first three days, Stone completed a third round of 65yesterday morning to take a two-shot lead which he swiftly extended with birdies on the second and fourth.

However, Stone then carded a hat-trick of bogeys from the fifth - he did well to restrict the damage on the sixth to a single shot after finding water off the tee - before getting away with a wild tee shot on the eighth to birdie the par five.

Stone, who attended the same American university as World No 1 Jordan Spieth, was lucky to see his approach to the ninth stop on the bank of a water hazard, but after chipping to three feet he missed the par putt before three-putting the 10th.

Brooks had recovered from a bogey on the second to birdie the sixth and eighth and found himself two shots clear when Stone also bogeyed the 11th following another wayward tee shot.

However, the 28-year-old from Basildon promptly three-putted the 10th from long range and, with Stone stopping the rot with a birdie from five feet on the 12th, the pair were tied for the lead.

"After making that bogey on the 11th I said to myself, 'You're still right there, you've been playing great for three days now. Let's just keep it going, just hit the fairway on 12'," Stone added.

"I hit a great one down 12, left myself my favourite yardage. I made an incredible shot and it just swung from there."

Bezuidenhout (21) briefly made it a three-way tie with a birdie on the 13th, but playing partner Stone also took advantage of the par five to edge back in front before both players also birdied the 15th. Stone extended his lead to two shots with his fourth birdie in five holes on the 16th and crucially holed from six feet on the next for par, where Bezuidenhout three-putted to effectively end his chances before a birdie on the last completed a closing 67.

That eventually secured outright second when Brooks, who needed an unlikely eagle to force a play-off, found rough off the tee on the 18th and bogeyed.

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