Bernd Wiesberger Survives Playoff to Claim Scottish Open Title
IT is not so long ago that Bernd Wiesberger couldn’t even consider the prospect of picking up a golf club, let alone going out and hitting a golf ball. But as he finally puts all thoughts of his wrist surgery to the back of his mind, the Austrian can reflect on what is turning out to be a stellar season. First of all he won the Made in Denmark, then he finish second at the Irish Open and now is Scottish Open champion and will head to Royal Portrush believing he has a genuine chance of winning The Open Championship.
It wasn’t easy. Wiesberger had to beat Benjamin Hebert in a playoff to take the title. The Austrian entered the final day at The Renaissance Club with a two shot lead but found himself trailing after Hebert carded a stunning closing 62 to set the target at 22 under.
Wiesberger had edged back ahead with two to play but bogeyed the 17th in a 69 before a par on the third playoff hole handed him a sixth European Tour title.
For Frenchman Hebert, there is the consolation of a place in the field at The Open, alongside England's Andrew Johnston - who also carded a closing 62 - and Italian Nino Bertasio. There was a huge wave of support for Johnston, who revealed recently that he has been struggling with depression. Beef is one of the most popular players on the European Tour and it has been difficult to watch him play so poorly while so obviously not enjoying himself on the course. Hopefully, this will help to turn things around for him.
France's Romain Langasque finished two shots off the lead, with Bertasio, Johnston, Andrea Pavan, Andrew Putnam and Henrik Stenson at 19 under.
Wiesberger missed seven months of last season because of the wrist injury but today finds himself leading the Race to Dubai.
"We just dug in there," he said. "I would have loved to seal it off with a couple of pars coming in but sometimes it just tests you. I'm very grateful for how it turned out. I've always enjoyed coming to the links, Scottish links, and I've had nice success here in Scotland and it's just really, really nice to be able to stand here with the trophy at the end of the day. It was a long day but somehow I managed.
"Being in places where you have no control over what is going to happen next all of last year makes it just a lot sweeter and you appreciate it a lot more."
Johnston set the early target with the lowest round of his European Tour career and Wiesberger soon joined him as he pulled his second shot on the second into thick rough left of the green.
The leading group grew to four when Hebert added to birdies on the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh with another gain on the tenth, and he led on his own when he holed from six feet at the par five 12th.
Wiesberger joined him at 20 under with an up-and-down on the par five seventh and from there it became an enthralling two horse race. Another approach to around six feet at the 13th nudged Hebert ahead again but Wiesberger holed a long putt at the ninth to peg him back.
Hebert missed an opportunity at the par five 16th but hit a wonderful tee shot to nine feet at the par three 17th to set the target before Wiesberger caught him again with a tap-in on the 12th.
An 18 foot left to righter on the 16th made Wiesberger a firm favourite but he failed to get up and and down after missing the green on the next, and had to make a seven-footer on the last to take it to extra holes.
Both men parred the first trip up the 18th before bogeying the next, but a three putt from Hebert allowed Wiesberger to claim victory from five feet.
Langasque made six birdies and two bogeys in a 67 for a fifth top ten of the season after regaining his card via the Challenge Tour.
Johnston has been struggling with both his game and his mental health and will have delighted both himself and his fans with his qualification for The Open. He got to 20 under with his 10th birdie of the day on the 16th but dropped a shot on the last, while Bertasio made five birdies and two bogeys in a 68. Stenson carded a 66 to finish a week in which he only dropped shots on the 17th in round three with a 66, a score matched by Italian Pavan and bettered by two shots by American Putnam.
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, South African George Coetzee, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, England's Lee Slattery and American Justin Thomas finished at 18 under.
South African Dylan Frittelli secured his place in The Open after his maiden PGA Tour victory at the John Deere Classic. The 29-year-old, who was two shots behind going into the final round, carded a magnificent bogey-free seven under 64 to reach 21 under. It gave him a two-shot victory ahead of Russell Henley, who had 10 birdies in a 61 at TPC Deere Run in Illinois.
Frittelli has played in the last two Open Championships and he failed to make the cut on both occasions, and will be hoping to do better this time around. A superb bunker shot on the opening hole gave him a tap-in birdie, the first of three in succession on the final day.
Henley made six putts of over seven feet in his round, including efforts from 26 and 46 feet, to set the clubhouse target at 19 under. Frittelli birdied the par five 17th after playing out of a greenside bunker to 11 feet to ensure a comfortable finish, and looked forward to the tournament's charter flight to Royal Portrush.
Frittelli, who has played much of his golf on the European Tour, was thrilled with his success and said he couldn’t wait to get to Northern Ireland. "Hopefully I can be calm by the time I get there but I'm sure it's going to be a fun flight," he said.
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