Stone excited to play with hero Els in Johannesburg


Brandon Stone will live out a childhood dream when he tees it up alongside Ernie Els at the Johannesburg Open this week as he goes in search of back-to-back European Tour wins.

Last weekend, Stone was reduced to tears as he clinched a maiden victory on the Tour at the South Africa Open, beating compatriot Christiaan Bezuidenhout by two shots.

The 22-year-old now heads to the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in an attempt to make it seven South African winners in the 10th instalment of the tournament.

And Stone will have plenty of motivation to impress as he plays alongside one of South Africa's most famous sportsmen and four-time major winner Els.

"I get to play with the guy I've grown up watching," he said. "I just saw the draw now and it's the first time I'm ever going to play with Ernie in a tournament. It's going to be really special. Really, really special.

"To watch him play and watch this guy that I've grown up idolising, make his way around a golf course like this, it's going to be quite unique and quite fun."

For Els the event is an opportunity to hone his putting skills as his struggle with the yips continued at the South Africa open.

The 46-year-old has had to give up his belly putter as part of new regulations and his struggles included missing a "gimme" from around a foot en route to missing the cut.

Stone and Els are part of a strong South African contingent that will also include George Coetzee, whose maiden European Tour win came at this tournament in 2014.

Coetzee won a further two times in 2015 before suffering an ankle injury in August that brought a premature end to his season.

The 29-year-old is now focusing on regaining form having returned to fitness.

"I've got a lot of work to do to catch up with these guys playing out here now, but I'm working on some good stuff and I'm excited about the game. It's just a question of when do we get there," he said.

The likes of Trevor Immelman and Matteo Manassero are also in action, but defending champion Andy Sullivan misses out as he is representing Europe in the EurAsia Cup.

The field will play the East and West course on Thursday and Friday, before the East Course hosts the weekend.