Brandon Sets His Name in Stone with Brilliant Scottish Open Victory
BRANDON STONE came within a whisker of finally becoming the first man to record a 59 on the European Tour as he won the Scottish Open at Gullane in sensational fashion. In the process, he also claimed one of three available places in the field for this week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The 25 year old became the 28th player to shoot 60 on the European Tour – Darren Clarke has done it twice – and the fourth to do so on a Sunday on their way to lifting the trophy. Stone's scintillating ten under par effort was almost one better though – he missed from seven feet on the last for what would have been the first 59 in European Tour history.
He carded eight birdies and an eagle in his first 16 holes at Gullane and needed to play the last two in one under par to break the 60 barrier.
A clubhouse target of 20 under par never looked like being matched as Stone recorded his third European Tour title. The other Open berths went to runner-up Eddie Pepperell, who raced to the turn in 30 and briefly led by two shots before Stone's flourish of birdies saw him overhauled, and Sweden's Jens Dantorp, who led after 54 holes.
A closing 64 saw England's Pepperell finish on 16 under, with overnight leader Dantorp carding a 68 to finish alongside South Africa's Trevor Immelman (65) and American Luke List (64) on 15 under.
List already had a spot in the field at Carnoustie, and Dantorp pipped 2008 Masters Tournament champion Immelman by virtue of his higher position in the Official World Golf Ranking. Immelman has the consolation of finally recording a top-five finish after spending years in the wilderness.
Stone began the final round three shots off the lead but covered the front nine in 31 and picked up birdies on the 10th, 12th, 14th and 15th before holing a curling eagle putt from 30 feet on the par-five 16th to set up his shot at history.
“It's incredible,” Stone said. “If I'm going to be brutally honest, I had no idea what my score was until I walked on to the 18th green. “It was just one of those days where everything went well, hit it great, holed some beautiful putts, and obviously to walk away with 60 having missed an eight-footer was a slight disappointment, but I won't really complain.
“My caddie came up to me and said, ‘ You don't get putts like this too often', so I let him read it. I said as we walked on the green, 'I'm not reading this one. This is completely up to you.'
“I rolled it over his mark, but he did criticise my pace, he said it lacked a little bit of pace. So he probably is right. Didn't hold its line, but we'll take it. The putt on the 16th is pretty much where you could say the tournament was won for me. I felt great. I knew I just needed to make three more good swings, and when that thing went home, the emotions came flooding in. I had to really struggle to keep it in.
“Hopefully I can find accommodation for The Open!”
As the players headed for Carnoustie, Ian Poulter found himself at the centre of storm when he was accused of swearing at a volunteer who refused to help him look for his ball in a gorse bush during the third round. Quintin Jardine wrote a letter of complaint to the tournament organisers, saying Poulter was aggressive towards him and had used foul language. The player said he was disappointed but insisted that the language was directed at himself.
MICHAEL KIM became the latest first-time winner on the PGA Tour when he shot a final round of 66 to win the John Deere Classic by eight shots - in the process, he shattered the tournament scoring record with a four-round total of 257, a staggering 27 under par.
He defeated Francesco Molinari (64), Joel Dahmen (65), Sam Ryder (66) and Bronson Burgoon (69) by eight shots. With the win, Kim moved from 161st to 56th in the FedExCup.
In addition to hoisting his first PGA Tour trophy, he also secured the final Open Championship berth on offer at the Deere. Kim also tied the largest margin of victory this season, despite not being able to sleep before the final round. He looked at the clock in his room, and even ended up watching the Wimbledon men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson.
Starting the day with a five-shot lead over Burgoon, Kim birdied the first three holes to extend his lead even further. After his only bad shot, a bunkered tee shot at the par-three seventh, he increased his lead from seven to eight when he got up and down for par and Burgoon bogeyed. As the latter said afterwards, it was time to start thinking about the race for second place.
Kim was part of the class of 2011 that included Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth Daniel Berger and Xander Schauffele, all of whom have already enjoyed tremendous success on the PGA Tour, and he felt like he was being overshadowed, especially as he is one of the shorter hitters on Tour. “You can’t help but feel you’re getting left behind,” he said.
He had also missed three cuts in succession, so there was little hint of what was to come. Zach Johnson, a mentor to Kim, with whom he shares a management agency and a trainer, said the Korean’s enviable talent and inconsistent results seemed to be at odds.“He’s very, very, very good,” Johnson said.
His caddie, Andrew Gundersen, admitted that the season had been a huge disappointment before the John Deere Classic. “Michael really struggled this past year, mainly off the tee. He just needed a different set of eyes, a new coach who was going to show him something he wasn’t seeing.”
Kim had been with his old coach, James Oh, for eight years, and when asked about the coaching switch after his epic win, Kim’s eyes welled up with tears. He explained it was a hard thing to talk about, and that a lot of work had gone into his performance at TPC Deere Run, and Oh was as vital a cog as anyone else on his team.
John Tillery, director of instruction at Georgia’s Cuscowilla Golf Club, is the new coach and has been working with Kim for less than a month, and the transformation has been immediate. “I wasn’t real familiar with his game or anything,” Tillery said, “but what was related to me was that the driver was killing him. He mostly had a big right miss. He had some inefficiencies there, but we’ve started to address those and he’s obviously gained some confidence from seeing the ball go where he’s looking. He’s got the pedigree.
“We’re just starting,” Tillery added. “He’s got a lot more gas than he showed even this week.”
Molinari, meanwhile, will head to Carnoustie full of confidence. His runner-up finish here comes on top of his victories at the BMW PGA championship and the Quicken Loans National, together with a second place at the Italian Open.
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