NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — Xander Schauffele keeps making up for lost time.
Winless for more than two years, Schauffele picked up his fourth win in 12 months on Sunday when he overcame a difficult spell midway through his round with two crucial birdies and a par save for an even par 70 to win the Scottish Open to win .
Next up is another test on Scottish soil, the purest of them all, the Open Championship at St Andrews. Schauffele travels to the home of golf as one of the hottest players in the world.
It was the first time the PGA Tour had co-sanctioned a European Tour event.
“It’s just an honor to win the first one,” said Schauffele, who now has seven career titles on the PGA Tour.
His par-8-foot save on the par-3 17th at The Renaissance Club gave him a two-shot lead, and the 28-year-old from San Diego played it smart from there. He took irons off the 18th to avoid trouble and ended up missing an 8-foot par that was just on the margin.
Schauffele finished 7-under 273, one shot ahead of Kurt Kitayama (66).
Kitayama had a one-shot lead on the back nine and was still tied until he missed a 6-foot par putt on the 17th hole and then had to wait to see if his score would be enough.
The consolation for Kitayama was that he earned one of three spots in the field at the Open, his third consecutive season in golf’s oldest championship. The other two places went to Brandon Wu and Jamie Donaldson, who shared sixth place.
So many others had the chance to earn a place at St Andrews. Rickie Fowler has played every Open Championship since 2010 and came within reach of the finals of the Scottish Open. But he finished with a 75 and headed home across the Atlantic.
Ryan Palmer was also in position until he played the back nine with two bogeys and no birdies and missed two shots. It was more difficult for Alex Smalley, who needed just a par on the 18th to secure a spot. He bogeyed.
Schauffele didn’t have it easy either.
He started the last round two shots ahead and screwed the first two holes. After five holes he was four strokes ahead. And by the time he reached the back nine, he was a shot behind.
“It was stressful,” said Schauffele. “I’m not going to put makeup on the pig here. It was a very average day, probably my worst stuff this week. You can’t overtake yourself in links golf. I was front, back, front, back. I just put my head down.”
Things started to turn in his favor when Schauffele made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole to regain the lead and then hit the par-5 16th in two to set up a two-putt birdie , who extended their lead to two strokes . Equally important was the 17th when he putted about 2.40m from the hole behind the green and made it to par to hold his cushion.
Schauffele has now won back-to-back PGA Tour starts – his win at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland earlier in the week doesn’t count – and heads into the final Major of the year. The last player to win back-to-back before a Major was Dustin Johnson in 2016, and then he finished ninth in the Open Championship at Royal Troon.
He had gone more than three years without a win as he was with the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua to start 2019 and it was nagging at him.
But then Schauffele won Olympic gold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last summer. He teamed with Patrick Cantlay in late April to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and now he’s added two more of his own. That puts him at number 5 in the world.
“Just to get over the hump, honestly, it was big,” he said of his first PGA Tour win of the year in New Orleans. “It was definitely a kickstarter for me, as you can see.”
Joohyung Kim, the 20-year-old South Korean, also had a brief share of the lead with a brilliant play on the 17th that rolled his ball from the back slope to 5ft for the birdie. But he took a bogey on the 18th and shot 67 to finish third. He moved up to No. 39, his first time in the top 50.
Jordan Spieth had his share of adventures again.
He was one shot away from the lead until he drove his tee shot into tall grass on the 14th, hooked long and double bogeyed, then bogeyed off the fairway with a wedge on the 15th. Spieth had two birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey on the back nine and shot 72 to earn 10th place.
https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/34223196/xander-schauffele-wins-scottish-open-fourth-victory-12-months Xander Schauffele wins Scottish Open for fourth victory in past 12 months