Rafa Cabrera Bello Ends Title Drought at Scottish Open
IT HAS been a long time coming, but Rafa Cabrera Bello finally got himself back into the winners' circle when he shot a sensational final round of 64 and went on to defeat Callum Shinkwin in a playoff to win the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.
The Spaniard seems to have been knocking on the door almost every week for the past couple of years and was beginning to wonder if he would ever win again - this was his third victory on the European Tour, but his first for more than five years. He claimed the title with a birdie at the first playoff hole.
Cabrera Bello had started the day four shots behind joint leaders Shinkwin, Ian Poulter and Andrew Dodt, but surged through the field on Sunday, carding eight birdies en route to a course record 64, to sit just one shot behind Shinkwin at 13 under par. He then watched Shenkwin drop a shot at the final hole.
Both players hit fine drives at the first extra hole, but after Shinkwin’s approach found an awkward, downhill lie by the greenside bunker, Cabrera Bello hit a superb approach shot into the par-five from 275 yards, and was able to two-putt to victory.
Shinkwin will console himself with the biggest cheque of his career and a place in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He will be joined by Frenchman Matthieu Pavon, who came third on 10 under par and Dodt, who was two further back at eight under alongside Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, Matt Kuchar of the USA, Englishman Anthony Wall and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
Dodt's challenge for the title faded after four bogeys on the back nine and he finished in a tie for fourth on eight under with a 73, although he took the third Open spot, edging out England's Anthony Wall by virtue of his higher world ranking – 193 to 245.
Cabrera Bello is the first Spanish winner of the Scottish Open, and follows Alex Noren (BMW PGA Championship), Tommy Fleetwood (HNA Open de France) and his compatriot Jon Rahm (Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation) as a Rolex Series champion.
For Cabrera Bello, the victory was a huge relief. “I have been working really hard to try to get the third win. Sometimes I felt that I have made mistakes and I end up not winning. Other times, I felt I've given a good charge, but other people deserved the win," he said.
“This time, I really felt I played some of the best golf of my life today. I had an unbelievable Sunday, and I really went for it on the play-off. So I’m extremely pleased that today everything worked out my way.
“Knowing that I performed well in The Ryder Cup, that's one of the most pressured situations in the world, really. That just proves to yourself that you can play good in any condition, in any golf event. Obviously a play-off is one of those situations. You draw back from those memories, really trust yourself and go for it. I mean, this time it worked out great.
“I was watching on TV, yes. Obviously it was all in his (Shinkwin’s) hands. It must have been frustrating for him because I felt he got unlucky with the ball not rolling back to the bunker. Otherwise it would be him sitting here instead of me today.
“But I know from experience, as well, how difficult it is to close events. I don't know if he has ever been in the same position as he was today. Sometimes things, don't ask me how, but things do go wrong. I've felt that in my own bones more than once, unfortunately.
“The spectators have been fantastic. Even seeing yesterday the rough day it was, having so many people for the conditions we had. I mean, golf in Scotland is huge and we always feel great support from the local crowd, and I think the venue has proven to be a very exciting venue.”
Vamos, Rafa! ????♥? pic.twitter.com/KPpO35HogU— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 17, 2017
Poulter could get nothing going and eventually finished with a 74, six behind the leaders. Padraig Harrington had an extraordinary week. Having opened with rounds of 67 and 68, he shot a 79 in round three before finishing the tournament with a 66 and a share of fourth place. Rickie Fowler tuned up for The Open with seven under par total, level with Poulter.
Shinkwin tried to focus on the positives. “It's been a very good week. At the end of the day, I'm more than happy to finish second but the win was on my mind and didn't happen," he said. "Of course I had a few nerves but to be fair it was nothing like what everyone probably thinks. I hit a great second shot in and finished in a divot on a downslope of the bunker. I had no shot, really. But 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. Now I've got enough ranking points to hopefully be in The Race to Dubai at the end of the year and hopefully I can carry on into next week.”
Pavon was delighted to qualify for Birkdale. “I played great yesterday and today. I finished badly with a double-bogey yesterday, so it was a bit kind of revenge today. I started well and everything was going in the right way. So that's a great card. Very happy with that," he said.
“I made a few birdies when I started the round, so I just tried to keep going and going and going. Today I played the 18th more aggressive and tried to find the green. I did it and just had two putts to make a good birdie."
JOINING them at Birkdale will be Bryson DeChambeau after his dramatic victory at the John Deere Classic. The man with the quirky swing fought back from four shots behind to beat Patrick Rodgers and claim his first PGA Tour title.
DeChambeau appeared to be out of the running but he birdied four of the final six holes at TPC Deere Run for a six-under 65 and an 18-under 266 total. He had missed a series of cuts recently and many people were beginning to question whether he had the game to make it on Tour, but DeChambeau never had any doubts.
"There's plenty of ways to do it. I do it my way and I feel comfortable doing it my way," DeChambeau said.
DeChambeau made a 14-foot birdie putt at the 18th to pull even with Rodgers. Rodgers then had a par putt on No. 17 lip out, and sent his tee shot on 18 into the rough.
Wesley Bryan (64) and Rick Lamb (66) tied for third at 16 under, and past tournament champions Steve Stricker (64) and Zach Johnson (67) topped the group at 15 under.
DeChambeau played the front nine in even par, then birdied six of the final nine holes to surge to the top of the leaderboard. He is the 10th first-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.
"Our tendency when you have the lead is to kind of hold on and play safe and guard against making mistakes. But I had guys coming at me with some really low rounds. Obviously Bryson shot a great one," said Rodgers.
Stricker, who won at TPC Deere Run from 2009-11, grabbed a share of the lead before Rodgers had even teed off. He was eight under par through 14 holes, having started the day in 34th place. His only dropped shot of the day came at the last.
"If I could have made a couple more birdies there and could have got it to 18-under, who knows? Just couldn't get it in there," Stricker said.
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