Stone, the reigning BMW South African Open champion, is in second spot after the year-long accumulation of points at Sunshine Tour tournaments since the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open last April.
He is one of 16 players competing for a share of the R10 million Bonus Pool. The winner’s share is R4 million, and last place takes home R200 000, so the players know that there is a tidy haul to be made over and above their regular winnings from the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
“It’s good to be in the number two spot,” said Stone.
“I’ve been playing well for the last year-and-a-half, but right now, I need to try and catch Dean (Burmester). Obviously that’s impossible, because he’s played some phenomenal golf.”
Burmester takes an unassailable points advantage of 1 037.09 points into the event, and with 1 200 points for the player who comes out on top at Millvale, and 480 for the man who comes last, Stone will be angling to hang on to his second spot.
“You build the whole season around tournaments like this,” he said.
“It’s validation of what I’ve been doing through the last 11 months. It’s the same as The European Tour’s Race to Dubai Final Series – the Chase to the Investec Cup is our version of it. There are only 16 players, and they are the top 16 in South Africa at this time. To be part of the field at this time is obviously quite special. It’s another week that I need to play well, get a good performance in and see where I finish up.”
There’s an added incentive of R250 000 for the person who finishes first at Millvale on Saturday when the event draws to a close, and that has got the players’ attention.
Stone has been trying to familiarise himself with a course that is not accessible for general play.
“I’ve never been out here before and it’s quite a special place,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to the week and I hope I can get a good result. I chatted to Bertine Strauss quite a bit – she’s from Koster up the road, and we went to college together – and she gave me a bit of advice about the course. I’ll just have to try and figure it out for myself.”
Besides the course, and Burmester, Stone has 14 other top Sunshine Tour professionals with whom to contend – and beating all of that will take some playing.