Mel Reid's Breakthrough on LPGA Completes Stunning Weekend for European Golf
WHAT a weekend for European golf! Aaron Rai won the Scottish Open, Sergio Garcia returned to the winners’ circle in America for the first time since his 2017 Masters victory and Mel Reid landed the Shoprite Classic.
Rai produced a stunning final round of 64 at the Renaissance Club and went on to defeat Tommy Fleetwood in a playoff to win the Scottish Open.
The Englishman had set the target at 11 under but Fleetwood holed a 20 foot putt on the last for a closing birdie to take it to extra hole and when Rai found a bunker from the tee at the first playoff hole it seemed certain that Fleetwood would win. But Rai managed to salvage par and when Fleetwood three-putted, Rai had secured his second European Tour title.
On a thrilling final day, England's Robert missed out the play-off by one shot after a bogey on the last, with Australian Lucas Herbert and Scotland’s Marc Warren finishing on nine under after rounds of 65 and 66.
The win should have come as no surprise after Rai finished second at the Irish Open last week. His victory moves him into the top five in the Race to Dubai and the top 100 in the world rankings.
"It's incredible," he said. "I played a lot in Scotland growing up, dreamed of playing in a European Tour event in Scotland. To be able to play in it was incredible a couple of years ago and to be able to go still further is an incredible feeling. I didn't really see many leaderboards all the way around. I knew we had to play well and knew we had to cope pushing forwards but luckily I had a good couple of breaks and also played very well, so I'm very pleased.
"The Race to Dubai wasn't something I was thinking of, or certainly winning it wasn't something I was thinking of before this week."
Fleetwood sits a spot ahead of Rai in the season-long standings, and was left to rue missed chances on the back nine in his 67 as he fell just short of a third Rolex Series win.
"I played really, really well today, especially on the back nine," he said. "At the end of the day, I holed that one on the last to get in the play-off but putting cost me overall throughout week. It summed it up with I just pulled a straight putt on the last.
"It's disappointing. Of course, you always look at the positives but I messed up on the first play-off hole and that's that. It's Aaron's time, Aaron's week. He played great last week and is a worthy winner."
Overnight leader Rock and Fleetwood both found sand off the tee at the first to drop shots and Rock soon had Herbert for company at the top.
The 36-hole leader shot a miserable 79 in the third round but reached the turn in 31 and when he birdied the 10th, remarkably, he found himself leading on his own.
A bogey on the 12th dropped him back into a share of the lead with Rock and Rai.
Rai bogeyed the second but but birdied the third, fourth, fifth and seventh. A poor tee shot on the seventh saw Rock fall out of the lead and Herbert got his nose in front on his own with a 30 footer on the 15th.
Rai almost holed in one at the 12th to set up a birdie while up ahead, Herbert birdied the 16th. Rai made yet another birdie at the 13th and, with Herbert dropping a shot at the 17th, the Australian’s challenge was over.
Warren had picked up two two birdies on the front nine but a stunning run on the home nine gave him a chance of a second victory of the season. He birdied the 12, 13th and 15th and eagled the 16th to grab a share of the lead. Rai got up and down from the sand on the same hole to set the target.
Fleetwood had played a beautiful bunker shot to birdie the fifth and made a two-putt birdie at the 10th before holing from 18 feet on the 11th. He missed good chances on the 12th and 13th but holed from 18 feet on the 15th and missed another golden chance on the 16th.
Rock, meanwhile, took advantage of the 10th and then holed from 15 feet on the 13th, 12 feet on the 15th and got up and down on the 16th to join the lead before the drama on the 18th.
Warren bogeyed the last to slip to nine under, a shot clear of Swede Marcus Kinhult, England’s Ian Poulter and South Africa's Erik van Rooyen.
Meanwhile in America, Sergio Garcia secured his first PGA Tour win since the 2017 Masters with a one-shot victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.
Garcia began the day in a three-way share of the lead but needed an eagle on the par-five 14th to draw level with clubhouse-leader Peter Malnati.
A fine approach shot on the 18th set up a two-foot birdie putt for victory, his 11th on the PGA Tour.
"The perfect ending for an amazing week," said Garcia. "I stood up on 18 and I did what I've been doing all week. I trusted myself.” The Spaniard admitted that he has had other things on his mind.
He especially thought of the two uncles he lost to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“My father has a lot of family in Madrid,” Garcia said. “He's one of nine siblings, and we lost two of his brothers because of Covid-19, one at the beginning, Uncle Paco, and one just last Saturday, Uncle Angel. It's sad. And I know that a lot of families have lost a lot more people, but you never want to lose anyone like that, and I wanted to win this for them.”
Garcia won while putting with his eyes closed - literally. “It's obviously a boost of confidence, there's no doubt,” Garcia said. “Even if I would have not won it, it still would have been a massive high for me this week. To be able to do a lot of the things that I did, it meant a lot. It showed me a lot of what I still have, and what I still can do.”
American Malnati carded a career-best round of 63 to move into the clubhouse lead on 18-under and held that advantage for two hours before Garcia's late surge.
Malnati would eventually finish second, two shots clear of compatriot JT Poston, with another American Keegan Bradley and Swede Henrik Norlander one shot further back in fourth.
And England's Mel Reid landed her first LPGA Tour title with a two-shot victory in the Shoprite Classic in New Jersey.
Reid, 33, led by one overnight and shot a four-under-par 67 in Sunday's final round to take victory at Seaview Golf Club on 19 under par.
Jennifer Kupcho finished second on 17 under after a 68, one clear of her fellow American Jennifer Song (69).
"It's a huge relief," said Reid, who last month threw away a three-shot lead in Portland, Oregon.
"It's so emotional. I just wanted to kind of redeem myself. I'm proud how I handled myself,” said Reid.
She birdied two of the first three holes but bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes checked her momentum. However, four birdies in five holes from the eighth saw the six-time Ladies European Tour winner open a four-shot lead. Her lead was down to two when she bogeyed the par-three 17th, while Song and Kupcho picked up birdies.
Reid found the rough with her tee shot on the par-five last but hit a brilliant six-iron to 15 feet. She missed the eagle putt but was left with a tap-in birdie to complete her first victory since winning the 2017 Women's Victorian Open in Australia. Runner-up Kupcho managed seven birdies but bogeys on the fourth and 16th holes and a double bogey on the eighth damaged her hopes.
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