Stone fights hard for second in Dubai

Jan 31, 2021 | Featured, South Africans abroad

While Paul Casey cruised to a dominant four-stroke win in the European Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, Brandon Stone fought hard for his second-place finish.

Stone, who said he has been working on getting to a level of consistency for the last year or longer, saw that strategy bear fruit as he steadied his ship that was taking on water on the opening nine of the final round. He made three bogeys to turn in 38 while Casey was stretching out in the lead, but the South African pulled things back with four birdies on his way home to card a level-par 72 for a tournament total of 13-under

That saw him finish a stroke ahead of the young Scot Robert Macintyre, who had a horror bogey run of his own on his way to a two-over 74 and third place. Finn Kalle Samooja and England’s Laurie Canter finished on 10-under in a share of fourth.

Casey entered the day with a one-shot lead and while he turned in level par 35, that was enough for a three shot advantage which had been extended to five with five to play. That gap was trimmed over the closing holes but the 43-year-old never looked in any real danger as he cruised to a triumph that moves him back into the top 20 on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Stone bogeyed the second, sixth and seventh, but made a two-putt birdie on the par five 10th and hit a beautiful tee shot into the par-three next for another gain. He chipped over the 12th green to drop a shot but made the most of the par-five 13th and trimmed the lead back to four.

But Casey made a routine two putt birdie of his own on the 13th to get back five ahead, while MacIntyre joined Stone in second after holing from 15 feet on the next. The leader looked in trouble when he found a nasty lie off the tee at the 15th, failed to get out of the rough and then flew his third. But a brilliant clutch putt kept the damage to one.

Stone drove right up to the 17th green and got up and down for a birdie but a two putt gain for the Englishman on the last restored Casey’s four-shot cushion.

Richard Sterne, who led after the first round, closed with a bogey-free 69 to climb 15 places and finish in a share of 20th. Christiaan Bezuidenhout also carded a closing 69 to finish on five-under, on stroke behind Sterne and in a share of 22nd.

Justin Harding, who started the final round inside the top 10, endured a bad day at the office, making five bogeys and a double on his way to a four-over 76. He slipped 20 spots down the leaderboad into a share of 27th.

Further back, Dean Burmester carded a two-under 70 to finish on three-under for the week in 35th, while Jayden Schaper’s 71 saw him close at level-par in 38th. Justin Walters signed for a 79 and was in 59th, and George Coetzee made a 73 to finish in a share of 60th.

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