Schauffele’s ‘special’ Scottish Open victory underlines a game that travels

A Rolex Series gold star to go with his Olympic gold medal. A third PGA Tour title of the year with a historic twist given its co-sanctioned status with the DP World Tour. Glory in golf’s birthplace and further proof his game travels beyond the comfy confines of the United States.

At the end of the same week in which he won the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland, Xander Schauffele’s Genesis Scottish Open victory will see the 28-year-old return to the top 10 of the world rankings and give rise to even greater Open Championship expectations across the Firth of Forth in St Andrews this week.

“It’s special,” said Schauffele who edged countryman Kurt Kitayama (66) by a stroke and young Asian Tour star Joohyung Kim (67) by two after a turbulent closing round of even par 70 at The Renaissance Club to finish -7.

“It’s different playing over here. You’ve got to play golf differently. The fans are incredible. They pushed me long all day and this is definitely a nice win for my team and myself.”

A pair of opening birdies saw Schauffele double his overnight lead to four strokes before a mid-round wobble saw no fewer than 15 players within four strokes. There were bogeys on 6, 7 and 9 for Schauffele as Kitayama, a former Oman Open champion who had missed 11 of 16 cuts leading into the week in North Berwick, set the clubhouse target at -6 with a closing 66.

Jordan Spieth got it to -5 before a double on the 14th scuppered the former Open champion’s hopes of winning in Scotland. Schauffele was having trouble dialling up a fade or gentle draw on command but steadied the ship with birides on 14 and 16 and had enough of a buffer to be able to chip and two-putt for a bogey on the 72nd hole. It means he’s now won in China, Japan, and Scotland as well as the United States, as recently at the Travelers Championship last month.

“I was trying to find something. Every time I wanted to cut it I hit it way right and every time I wanted to draw it I hit it way left. At least it was going the correct direction, but it was going, you know, miles apart.

“It was nice to sort of hit a few better shots coming down the stretch and kind of calm the ship here. It was looking pretty bad for a bit but this one is extra special because of that.”

It was extra special too given it was the first co-sanctioned event on European soil as part of the strengthened strategic alliance between the PGA and DP World Tours.

“It’s incredible. It’s just an honour to win the first one.”

Before Schaueffle had safely secured victory, Kitayama, fellow American Brandon Wu and Welsh Ryder Cup star Jamie Donaldson snared the last three starts in this week’s 150th Open, available to the top three finishes in the top 10 not already qualified for St Andrews.

With matching 67s on Sunday, Donaldson and Wu finished in a four-way share of 6th place alongside Cameron Tringale and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. Patrick Cantlay and Tommy Fleetwood shared fourth place while Dubai’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, playing in the final pairing with Schauffele tumbled 34 places to an eventual share of 36th  following a traumatic seven-over 77.

 

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