Will South African hotshot golfer Brandon Stone be able to beat the magic of Rory McIlroy in the BMW SA Open Championship?
The Sunshine European Tour, a co-sanctioned event and one of the country’s oldest, tees off at Glendower Golf Club in Edenvale, Ekurhuleni, on Thursday.
Stone will be defending his title following a breathtaking display that saw him win the Open with a score of 14-under par 274 at the same venue last year, when he pocketed a whopping R2.4 million in prize money.
McIlroy is a four-time major champion. And having spent 95 weeks as world number one, he will compete in the showdown as a special guest of Ernie Els, himself the player host of this particular event.
But the event will be especially intriguing because Stone and McIlroy are both equally highly skilful draw cards.
Last month saw the 23-year-old Pretoria-based Stone close the European Tour season on a high, by snatching the Alfred Dunhill Championship – another big event on the tour calendar.
He triumphed by beating fellow South African Richard Sterne by six strokes, at Leopard Creek Country Club at Malelane, Mpumalanga.
Stone’s game has improved remarkably, thanks to the immense contribution of his dad, Kevin, a former professional player himself, who has been coaching his son on how to go about sinking those birdies.
And this top form will probably unsettle McIlroy, who is hellbent on taking the country by storm, by winning our big one.
McIlroy (27), who is currently ranked third in the world, recovered fully from an ankle injury sustained in 2015, to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, which he himself hosted in May last year.
He bagged the Deutsche Bank Championship and the Tour Championship in September.
With a swelling number of golf enthusiasts, still enjoying festive season holidays, expected to descend on the Glendower course like a swarm of bees, expectation will be high on Stone and McIlroy to give the golfing fans something to talk about.
Competition will be intense, as other big names will be out to burn the fairways too.
South Africa’s Retief Goosen, two-time US Open and SA Open winner will be there, displaying his skills to show that he still has the magic.
Hennie Otto, who is now based in Mauritius, was the last South African to win the Open in 2011, and he will be back with the hope of repeating that feat.
Other stars who have entered for the showdown include former British Open titleholder Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland; Denmark’s Morten Ørum Madsen; and Englishman Andy Sullivan, who won the Open in 2014 and 2015.