Make golf predictions at your peril
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
Brandon Stone is a seminal lesson that success can be fleeting for all but golf’s elite. He also serves as a reminder that it often doesn’t pay to hang superstar labels on players too soon.
Stone has just won the Limpopo Championship, the South African’s first win in three years.
The Limpopo Championship is a co-sanctioned tournament between the European Challenge Tour and the South African Sunshine Tour. It carried a total purse of approximately $210,000, with Stone taking home a cheque for around $33,000. It’s far cry from his last victory in 2018, the $7 million Aberdeen Investments Scottish Open at Gullane, when he picked up $1,166,660.
“Regardless of what anyone says, the Sunshine Tour and the Challenge Tour are tremendous Tours” Stone said. “These guys are hungry to play. These guys are cutthroat, they’re vicious, they’re brutal golfers, they want to win.
“In saying that, every victory is special and to win at home is obviously a little bit more. I haven’t won in a few years, so to get that monkey off my back now is fantastic. We’re only in April, there’s a long season ahead.”
A win is a win as they say, and all credit to Stone for the victory, but winning on the Challenge Tour is perhaps not where Stone saw himself at this stage in his career.
Those of us who watched him win that Scottish Open left Gullane believing Stone had taken an important step to becoming a true world player, that bigger victories would soon follow. It was his third European Tour victory following wins in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and BMW SA Open in his homeland. The Scottish was his first win outside South Africa.
Oh, and he shot a closing 60 to win by four shots. In fact, he missed an eight-foot putt on the final green to become the first player to shoot 59 on the European Tour. England’s Oliver Fisher became the first sub 60 shooter on the circuit when he recorded a 59 in the Portugal Masters later that year.
Stone finished 25th on the 2018 Race to Dubai but sank to 99th the following year. He showed a better return to form in last year’s Covid-affected season, placing 33rd on the money list. He’s currently 18th thanks to a second-place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic, and seventh in Qatar.
He’s 98th on the Official World Golf Ranking but has been as high as 67th.
That the Pretoria native isn’t playing on the PGA Tour full time at this stage in his career is perhaps surprising to many. Stone has already found success in the United States. He was named 2013 NCAA Freshman of the Year in his short spell at the University of Texas, playing on a golf team that included one Jordan Spieth. There were those at the time claiming Stone was going to be South Africa’s future superstar, a major champion in waiting to join mentor and close family friend Ernie Els.
Most of us expected him to focus on the PGA Tour following that Scottish Open win, following Els and compatriots Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and others. However, Stone has managed just 17 career starts on the world’s best professional circuit.
Stone is just 28. His best years could well be in his immediate future. He’s not the first player to be dubbed "future superstar." He won't be the last; he's another example that it pays not to make bold predictions based on one win, no matter how outstanding.
#JustSaying:"This game has a way of kicking you down and raising you up,” Brandon Stone
Photograph by Getty Images, courtesy of the European Tour