Just a fortnight on from a narrow play-off defeat in Nairobi, Brandon Stone arrives in the Spanish capital for the Challenge de Madrid this week looking to avenge that defeat and continue his impressive start to the 2015 campaign.
In the end it took a career shot from Haydn Porteous to beat Stone on the final day, as his friend and compatriot hit a fairway wood to mere feet on the drivable par four 12th hole to set up an eagle that decided the sudden death shootout at the first extra hole.
Heading into the final round Stone had led by one from his eventual conqueror, and despite a double bogey on the par four 13th on Sunday, he also carded six birdies in the final round to card a closing 69.
That included a final red number at the par five last, holing first for his four before Porteous followed suit. From there it was straight into extra holes and a hammer blow worthy of winning any golf tournament, but Stone took great heart from his runner-up finish, and is excited to get going once again at El Encin Golf Hotel.
“I feel good going into this week,” said the 21 year old, who like Porteous, was ranked his nation’s best amateur before entering the paid ranks. “I did some good practice last week in South Africa, which was nice, and the weather was good so it was easy to compare.
“I’m looking forward to playing the course, compare it to the last few weeks and see how it matches up with the game so I can come up with a strategy. Every course has a way it needs to be played, and I will try and formulate that today and tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it.
“I played solid the whole week in Kenya, and even the double bogey I had on the back nine was just a bad break. So I played 17 great holes on Sunday and the way that I am playing right now I feel very confident. I just need to keep working on it, keep working on the process, and keep trying to improve.
“It is always fun going head to head, and me and Ports have done it so many times over the years, it was always a case of who’ll get it this time and who will get it next. It was enjoyable playing against each other on the final day, and to have him win it over me was a lot better than someone else.”
For Stone, that week in Kenya proved his game is back to its best after a difficult last campaign in which he managed two top ten results from his 14 second tier starts en route to 80th on the season-long Rankings.
To play so well under the pressure of two weeks ago gave him great confidence though, especially how he handled himself on the final green, and he is excited to have got the season off to a near perfect start as he looks to capitalise on that going forward.
“I felt fine over the putt on the 18th, surprisingly,” said Stone, who enters the week second on the Race to Oman Rankings. “There were a few nerves, but I knew the line and I hit the putt and it went dead centre. If only it was always that easy.
“In the play-off he hit the shot we had been talking about the whole tournament, and he just got up and delivered an absolute pearler. To lose to an eagle, you are getting beaten, you’re not really losing.
“To get a good start on the Challenge Tour is always very difficult and a good thing to do, and after the start that I have had and with the rest of the season remaining it takes a bit of the burden off, but there is still plenty of pressure to get that first win.
“So coming into this week I just need to get out there and find out what it will take to shoot a good score every day, then try and do it.”