Scottish Open 2017
Round 4 - Rafa Cabrera Bello wins in a playoffJuly 17, 2017
Rafa Cabrera Bello needed the best round of the week and one of the best shots of his life to end his 5 1/2-year wait for a victory on Sunday.
A 72nd-hole meltdown from Callum Shinkwin helped, too, at the Scottish Open.
On another signature day for Spanish golf in 2017, Cabrera Bello followed up an 8-under 64 - a course record at Dundonald Links - with a birdie in a sudden-death playoff against Shinkwin to win his third European Tour title.
He set up the birdie with a 3-wood to 8 feet from 275 yards on his second shot at the par-5 18th, having nearly found a burn running alongside the green with a similar shot in regulation play.
''I executed it perfectly,'' Cabrera Bello said. ''One of the shots of my life.''
Shinkwin, an unheralded Englishman ranked No. 405, left western Scotland with a spot in next week's British Open and the belief that he can compete with the game's best players.
And probably bad memories of the 18th hole at Dundonald Links.
Shinkwin started the final round in a share of the lead with Ian Poulter and Andrew Dodt, and led by a shot going down the last for the first time Sunday. Needing only a par to be assured of victory, he sent his second shot left and behind a greenside bunker, before chipping short of the green and seeing his ball roll back down beside the bunker.
From just off the green, he rolled a putt to 4 feet and left his par putt two inches short. He laughed and held his face in his hands, knowing he had dropped into a playoff with his only bogey in a round of 68. Shinkwin and Cabrera Bello finished on 13-under 275 overall.
Returning to the 18th for the playoff, Shinkwin was first with his second shot and put it exactly where he did about 30 minutes earlier. His chip shot over the bunker was only slightly better and he left his birdie putt agonizingly short again.
''It's all a learning curve and obviously if you win, you have to have luck on your side. It wasn't there for me,'' Shinkwin said.
''Under the gun, I didn't miss a shot until the last hole.''
In his final round, Cabrera Bello made eight birdies and didn't drop a shot. On his 72nd hole, his approach landed on the bank and nearly dropped into the burn, drawing gasps from spectators. He chipped out and made a birdie that ultimately forced the playoff.
His win continues a stunning year for Spanish golf, with Sergio Garcia winning the Masters for his first major title and Jon Rahm - a rising star of the sport - winning two titles, most recently at the Irish Open last week.
The last of Cabrera Bello's previous two titles on the European Tour came at the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2012.
''I have been fighting for this win for many years,'' he said. ''Sometimes I did mistakes, sometimes it didn't work out for me.
''I think this is long overdue.''
Cabrera Bello will climb into the world's top 20 heading into the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Matthieu Pavon and Dodt joined Shinkwin in qualifying for the Open courtesy of a top-10 finish for non-exempt players. Dodt was due to fly to New York on Monday for a five-day holiday with his wife.
Poulter was seeking a 14th worldwide win - and first since November 2012 - but was always playing catch-up after three-putting Nos. 1 and 4 for bogeys. He tied for ninth place alongside 2015 champion Rickie Fowler, who shot 70.
Round 3 - Ian Poulter joins leadersJuly 16, 2017
Ian Poulter controlled his swing, ball, and temperament in what he described as ''brutally tough conditions'' to move in sight of his first worldwide title in 4 1/2 years at the Scottish Open on Saturday.
In sideways rain and strong winds on Scotland's west coast, clubs slipped from players' hands, hardy fans' umbrellas were blown inside out, and puddles formed on fairways on the battered Dundonald Links.
A re-energized Poulter relished the links test, making three birdies in his first seven holes before battling the worst weather of the week on his back nine to shoot a 1-under 71. He was tied on 9 under par overall with playing partner and fellow Englishman Callum Shinkwin, whose 68 was arguably the round of the day given the circumstances, and Australian player Andrew Dodt (69).
''It was a job just to hold the umbrella,'' said Poulter, who is hitting top form a week before playing the British Open at Royal Birkdale, where he was tied for second the last time it was staged there in 2008.
''There's life in the old dog yet,'' Poulter added, with a determined smile, ''and I'm relishing the opportunity tomorrow to go out and get stuck in.''
The last of Poulter's 14 global victories was in November 2012 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
The Scottish Open is seen as an ideal tune-up for the British Open. Players probably could have done without conditions like they were on Saturday, though.
The tee times were brought forward by about three hours because of high winds forecast for late afternoon. The bad weather arrived a few hours earlier than expected, just when Poulter and the other lead groups were coming in.
''No. 12 was about as tough as I've ever seen in terms of wind and rain,'' Poulter said, holding a cup of tea to warm his hands.
American player Matt Kuchar said a 6-iron went 127 yards.
''I was out there thinking what my friends back home would be doing,'' said the Florida-born Kuchar, who shot 73 and was four shots off the lead.
Fellow American Rickie Fowler struggled to read the greens and was off line with his wedges in shooting 74. He was level with Kuchar, who dueled with Fowler for the Scottish Open title at Gullane in 2015. Fowler won with a birdie at the last.
Padraig Harrington, who has a reputation as a good player in bad weather, struggled more than most. Starting in a share of the lead, Harrington missed two-footers for par on Nos. 1 and 4 and had six bogeys and double in a 79, which dropped him to a tie for 23rd.
Poulter, known best for his Ryder Cup exploits with the European team, is playing with ''pressure off my shoulders,'' three months after thinking he'd lost his U.S. PGA Tour card.
He played just 13 tournaments in 2016 because of a foot injury and didn't earn enough FedEx Cup points or money in early 2017 to remain fully exempt. When Brian Gay alerted officials to a discrepancy in the points structure used for players competing with a medical exemption, Poulter got a reprieve.
''There's no question I feel better because of that,'' Poulter said. ''I can just go out and play golf.''
On a day when pars felt like birdies, Poulter was delighted to just make one bogey on his back nine.
''You can beat yourself up before you get on the golf course,'' he said. ''You know it's going to be tough. You know it's links golf.''
Shinkwin and Dodt are in a good position to claim two of the three Open places available for non-exempt players who finish in the top 10.
Dodt is due to fly to New York with his wife, Ashleigh, on Monday for a holiday. Those plans might have to be scrapped if he makes it to Birkdale for his first major.
Shinkwin, the world No. 405, has had more disqualifications (two) than top-25 finishes on the European Tour this season. A tap-in eagle putt on No. 14 came between two birdies on a fighting back nine.
''I don't think I've played in wind and rain like that before,'' he said.
Round 2 - Padraig Harrington joins leadersJuly 15, 2017
For Padraig Harrington, there's a downside to playing stress-free golf and leading one of the best fields of the year on the European Tour.
He might just be peaking a touch too early.
Six days before the British Open starts at Royal Birkdale, where he lifted the claret jug for a second time in 2008, Harrington was in a three-way share of first place at the Scottish Open after a bogey-free 4-under 68 in the second round on Friday.
''Maybe I'll have blown it all before next week,'' the easy-going Irishman said.
A three-time major champion, the 45-year-old Harrington is playing with a new-found freedom after concluding that he has already created a golfing ''legacy.'' He is also fit to play - amazingly, in his opinion - despite being struck in the left elbow by the club of an amateur he was teaching at a clinic last month. He initially feared the freak incident would end his career.
After a chaotic end to his first round when he chipped in from the back of the 17th green after saving par with a 25-yard putt on No. 16, Harrington kept it simple at Dundonald Links by making birdies on two of the par fives and birdieing two other holes from 7-iron approaches.
''Today was just boring,'' he said. ''No stress.''
It sums up his current approach to golf.
''When I came on tour, I played with some of the elder statesmen and I used to watch them fighting it, and at times I asked them, 'Why are you fighting it?''' Harrington said.
''And they say, 'Well, if I can win one more tournament...' And I was thinking, you've already done everything you're going to do, one more tournament is not going to change it. I'd hate to be that guy ... I've kind of come to the conclusion that I've pretty much done what I've done in the game of golf.''
It may just be a defense mechanism to relieve pressure, especially leading into a British Open where he'll be under more scrutiny than usual after what he did the last time golf's oldest major was held at Birkdale. He won by four shots on the back of a brilliant back nine in his final-round 69, and retained his title.
And he sees no reason why he can't win at the northwest England venue again.
''I can't tell you it's going to happen next week,'' Harrington said about winning again. ''But it will happen, just like winning in Portugal there six months ago; winning at Honda (Classic) the year before. I will throw these in, sometimes maybe out of the blue.''
Harrington said he has stopped beating himself up about his putting, which was the worst part of his game.
Also key to his recent revival has been a change to his swing. To protect his back, Harrington takes his left foot off the ground and steps forward after hitting the ball, in a kind of walk-on follow routine.
It looks funny but is getting results at the Scottish Open.
Round 1 - Mikko Ilonen takes first round leadJuly 14, 2017
Finland’s Mikko Ilonen held a two-shot lead after the first round of the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, with Rickie Fowler impressive in his return to the tournament on Thursday.
For those who have not already won a place, three spots in next week’s Open Championship are up for grabs with a top 10 finish in Ayrshire, and Ilonen vastly improved his chances of competing at Royal Birkdale, recording birdies in five of his final eight holes for a seven-under-par round of 65.
World number 10 Fowler won this tournament in 2015 but missed it last year because of other commitments. He looked in fine fettle, carding a five-under-par round of 67 to sit tied for second.
Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut at last week’s Irish Open, continued to falter in the first round at Dundonald Links, posting a two-over-par 74. The Northern Irishman found himself four over par after four holes but fought back to give himself a chance of making the cut.
Englishman Callum Shinkwin was third off the tee in windy conditions, but he managed to also shoot a round of 67 to hold the early lead in the clubhouse.
Shinkwin was soon joined by some illustrious company at the top of the leaderboard as Fowler finished with three birdies in his final seven holes put him in contention.
"It is a lot of fun to be back at the Scottish Open," Fowler told Sky Sports. "Unfortunately I had to miss it last year with the schedule, and the Olympics being part of the summer over here – it just didn’t allow me to play.
"It is a great way for me to come out and get ready for the Open, but it is also somewhere I know I can play well.”
World number 85 Ian Poulter joined the then leaders on five under par. Then Australian Andrew Dodt briefly took the lead outright after 14 holes but found himself in trouble down the 15th, bogeying that hole and carding one over on the 16th.
An excellent putt at the 18th put him five under and part of the crowd tied for second. American Paul Peterson and veteran Padraig Harrington joined the group late in the day.
|1||ESP||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-13||-||70||72||69||64||275|
|T35||SWE||Magnus A. Carlsson||-2||-||68||74||73||71||286|
|T55||POR||Ricardo Melo Gouveia||3||-||70||72||78||71||291|
|CUT||ESP||Eduardo De La Riva||4||-||74||74||-||-||148|