BRANDON STONE will defend his Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open title at The Renaissance Club this summer.
The South African will be joined by fellow Rolex Series winners Russell Knox and Lee Westwood at the North Berwick course for the event between July 8 and 14.
The trio all secured maiden Rolex Series victories in 2018 and Stone, home favourite Knox and Englishman Westwood will all be seeking to add to that tally when they tee it up once again in Scotland.
Stone stormed to his third European Tour victory in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open with a final round 60.
He carded eight birdies and an eagle in his first 16 holes at Gullane Golf Club, and his scintillating ten under par effort was almost one better, as he missed from seven feet on the 72nd hole for what would have been the first 59 in European Tour history – a feat that was achieved by Oliver Fisher just a few months later.
The 25-year-old said: “The Sunday of the Aberdeen Standard investments Scottish Open was an incredible day, and I’m looking forward to returning just a few miles along the coast to The Renaissance Club to defend my title.
“I had one of those days where everything went well. The putt on 16 was where you could say the tournament was won. I was feeling great and knew I just needed to make three more good swings, so when it came off the emotions and the realisation of what I was about to achieve came flooding in.
“I holed some beautiful putts, and of course it would have been great to sink that one on the last for a bit of history, but no matter what I was very proud to get my hands on that prestigious trophy and seal my first Rolex Series win too. I can’t wait to start my defence in July.”
Scotsman Knox added a Rolex Series win to his 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions crown when he completed the biggest comeback in the history of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The Inverness-native started the final round six shots off the lead and holed a stunning 40-foot putt on the 72nd hole to force a play-off against New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
He then did it again in almost identical fashion to win on the first extra trip up the last, just a week before Stone sealed his win in Scotland.
He is now set to make his sixth consecutive appearance in his home Open.
Knox said: “It’s always a pleasure to play in front of your home crowd, the extra energy the Scottish fans give you is fantastic.
“The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open is always one of my favourite weeks of the year. After winning a WGC and a Rolex Series event, you could say that I thrive in those high-pressure situations, and of course I would love to replicate that in Scotland.”
Former World Number One Westwood also returned to winning ways in some style in 2018, as he produced a stunning closing round of 64 to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
The 1998 Scottish Open champion sealed his first victory since the Maybank Championship in Malaysia four years earlier, birdieing five of his last eight holes in South Africa to prevail over Major Championship winners Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen.
It was an emotional victory for Westwood, as his first Rolex Series title took his tally to a remarkable 24 on the European Tour and 43 worldwide.
He said: “I always enjoy coming back to Scotland. It’s a tournament that I’ve won before and right now the game feels like it’s in a good place so I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s no secret that I was a bit emotional after the win in South Africa. You’re never sure whether you’re going to be able to do it again, and I’m pleased to have continued that form into the 2019 season.”
The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open returns to East Lothian this year when The Renaissance Club – one of the newest additions to the world-famous stretch known as Scotland’s Golf Coast – hosts the event for the first time.
This will be followed by the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, which will once again be played over the same course, from August 5-11, 2019.
Fans can buy tickets to see some of the world’s best golfers – including official Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open hospitality packages – at www.asiscottishopen.com