It was like winning the World Cup but being disappointed for not scoring a hat-trick. Brandon Stone swept relentlessly and in record fashion to the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open title, but maybe his final missed putt is the one that’ll be most remembered.
The 25-year-old had an eight foot putt on the final green at Gullane for the European Tour’s first 59. He’d holed everything within shouting distance all day with eight birdies and an eagle, that final exclamation taking him on the cusp of the magic number with two holes to play.
He’d eviscerated a packed field in the process, with 26 players within three shots of the lead at the start of the day reduced to one slim South African from the wine country north of Johannesburg away and clear with nothing but a defining moment in his career ahead of him.
However, the date with destiny will have to wait for another day. His putt veered left of the cup as if there was a magnet pulling it away, and he crumpled to his knees in disappointment.
The various consolation prizes are pretty handsome, however; a win in the elite Rolex Series – his previous two Tour wins were modest affairs in his native South Africa – and the near £900,000 winner’s cheque that goes with it, and an eleventh hour place in the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stone’s was only the second 60 on the European Tour in a final round to win a tournament, and the 19th on tour in all – Darren Clarke is the only man with two of them. The last 60 was Scott Jamieson’s at the Portugal Masters two years ago.
It meant he finished with a four round, 20-under-par aggregate of 260, four shots ahead of England’s Eddie Pepperell, who shot a 64 on the final day and found it was nowhere near good enough. Eddie is another of the three last-chance Open invitees, with Sweden’s Jens Dantorp, the leader going into the final round, hanging on for the third and final spot.
Stone quickly got over the disappointment of his final green miss with all he did achieve.
“A day shooting 60 to win the Scottish Open is something I’m going to hold in my heart for a very long time,” he said. “The emotions came flooding today and I had to really struggle to keep it all in.
“I had no idea what my score was until I walked on the 13th green. It was just one of those days where everything went well, hit it great, holed some beautiful putts, and obviously to walk away with 60 having missed an eight-footer was just a slight disappointment, but I won’t really complain.”
Stone had deferred to his caddie to read the crucial putt and followed his mark.
“However he criticised my pace, and he was probably right,” he smiled. “It didn’t hold its line well enough.
“It’s been a long year and half for me, making changes, but the swing felt incredible today, the putting was better and the mental state was flawless.”
The only question for him now was where he was going to stay heading up to Carnoustie.
“It’s Carnoustie, and that golf course can humble you very quickly,” he said. “So I’m under no illusions I’m going to have to do my preparation correctly.
“I wasn’t exactly planning on going through, so we have to find accommodation. But it was a fantastic week this week, and hopefully I can build on this and get a few more results coming into the final series at the end of the year.”
Three shots behind at the start of play, Stone ventured out playing with countryman Dean Burmester and miles under the radar, attention focused instead on leaders Dantorp and Ryan Fox, and on big names close to the lead like Rickie Fowler, Russell Knox, Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose and Thomas Pieters.
None of them played badly – Knox’s 72 was the worst of them – but there wasn’t a real challenge from any of the marquee players. Instead Pepperell, the Qatar Masters winner, seemed like he would be the man.
He raced to the turn in five-under 30, added a birdie at the 10th and suddenly had a lead. However he managed only one more, at the 14th, while Stone was burning it up behind him.
A front half of 31 got him in position, and he added birdies at 10 and 12 as the wind that had held back earlier starters died. Then he engaged sixth gear, going birdie-birdie-eagle from the 14th to get himself within sight of a number in the fifties.
A well struck birdie putt from 40 feet at the 17th stopped just short and right, and after he hit a super approach to the final green it seemed the 59 would going to happen at last, but the fates decreed otherwise.