Brandon Stone might have enjoyed one of his finest weeks in recent times, but he said the faltering start to his final round at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic had felt like “doing a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson”.
The 27-year-old South African started the final day at the Majlis Course in the penultimate group, two shots behind the leader Paul Casey.
His challenge unfolded in the space of the first seven holes, though. The three bogeys he made in that time matched the number he had made in his previous 40 holes in the event.
“It felt horrible, like I was doing a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson,” Stone said.
“I felt like I couldn't get the ball on the green, and like I was putting from a distance, and every time I was putting I was putting for par.
“The long walk from the 9th green to the 10th tee box kind of reset everything. I kind of just said, ‘All you have to do is hit one good shot and one good shot’.”
His inner monologue did the trick. He birdied three of the next four holes, and eventually signed for level-par 72.
It gave him a tournament total of 13-under, which was four strokes behind the winner Casey, but enough for second place on his own.
“I’m extremely proud of the performance I put up this week,” Stone said.
“I played some lovely golf, considering I was, I think I was 2-over through five holes on Thursday. So it's a fantastic fightback.
“Any time you're going to be in contention here at the Emirates, it's quite special.
"The media have been supporting this tournament for many years, and the illustrious list of winners that have their name on the trophy is quite special.
“And on top of all that, I got to play with Sergio [Garcia, in the final round] which is like a boyhood dream come true. Other than that it was a horrible week!”
Stone has three European Tour wins so far in his career, with the most recent coming at the Scottish Open in 2018. He did have one runner-up finish in the 2020 season, in Oman.
Despite starting within reach of the leader on the final day at Emirates Golf Club, he said the thought of raising the Dallah Trophy scarcely entered his mind.
“It wasn't really in much consideration,” Stone said.
“Especially after the first six holes and I'm 3-over par, I didn't really think about winning a tournament anymore.
“It was more a case of playing some good golf. That's the mentality I've had for the last few months and it's served me well so far. Hopefully, I can carry that with me for the rest of the season.”
Stone finished a place ahead of Robert MacIntyre, whose own challenge wilted with a final-round 74, playing in the final match with Casey.
The Scottish left-hander’s round fell apart with a run of four successive bogeys around the turn.
“Sometimes it doesn't go for you, and today was one of them days,” MacIntyre said.
“When I go away, I'll learn a lot. But I felt like I gave one away there today.”