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Thursday, December 08, 2022

Schauffele wins the Scottish Open, 4th victory in the last year

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland ( Associated Press) — Xander Schauffele continues to make up for lost time.

Winless for over two years, Schauffele earned his fourth victory in the last 12 months on Sunday when he overcame a mid-round slump with two key birdies and a par save for a par 70 to win the Scottish Open. . .

Next up is another event on Scottish soil, this one the purest of all, the British Open at St. Andrews. Schauffele heads to the home of golf as one of the best 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 save on the par-3 17th hole at The Renaissance Club gave him a two-shot lead, and the 28-year-old from San Diego played smart from there. He took the iron off the 18th tee to avoid trouble and ended up missing a par 8-footer that only affected the margin.

Schauffele finished with 273, seven under par, one shot ahead of Kurt Kitayama (66).

Kitayama had a one-shot lead through the back nine and was still tied until he missed a 6-foot-for-par putt on the 17th hole and then had to wait to see if his score would suffice.

The consolation for Kitayama was earning three places on the course at the British Open, his third successive time at golf’s oldest championship. The other two places went to Brandon Wu and Jamie Donaldson, who tied for sixth place.

Many others had the opportunity to earn a place at St. Andrews. Rickie Fowler has played every British Open since 2010 and reached the final round of the Scottish Open within range. He but he closed with a 75 and headed back home across the Atlantic.

Ryan Palmer was also in position until playing the back nine with two bogeys and no birdies and trailing by two shots. It was more difficult for Alex Smalley, who only needed a couple of 18th to earn a place. He bogieed.

It wasn’t easy for Schauffele either.

He started the final round with a two-shot lead and birdied the first two holes. He was four shots ahead after five holes. And when he got to the last nine, he was a shot behind.

“This was stressful,” Schauffele said. “I’m not going to make up the pig here. It was a very normal day, probably the worst of this week. You can’t get ahead of yourself in links golf. I was in front, behind, in front, behind. I just kept my head down.”

Everything began to turn in his favor when Schauffele made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole to regain the lead, then hit the par-5 16th hole in twos to set up a two-putt birdie that extended his lead to two strokes. . . Just as important was the 17th, when he putted from behind the green about 8 feet from the hole and made par to keep the rail from him.

Schauffele has now won two consecutive starts on the PGA Tour, his victory at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland earlier in the week does not count, before the final Major of the year. The last player to win twice in a row before a major was Dustin Johnson in 2016, and he went on to tie for ninth at the British Open at Royal Troon.

He had gone more than three years without a win, since the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua in early 2019, and it was eating at him.

But then Schauffele won Olympic gold at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. He teamed up with Patrick Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic in New Orleans in late April, and has now added two more. That takes him to No. 5 in the world.

“Just to get over the hump, honestly, it was great,” he said of his first PGA Tour victory this year in New Orleans. “It was definitely a kickoff for me, as you can see.”

Joohyung Kim, the 20-year-old South Korean, also had a brief slice of the lead with a brilliant play on the 17th in which his ball rolled down the back slope 5 feet for birdie. But he bogeyed on the 18th and shot 67 to finish third. He moved up to No. 39, his first time in the top 50.

Jordan Spieth once again had his share of adventures.

He was one shot away from the lead until he hit his tee shot on the 14th into tall grass, cut long and double bogeyed, then bogeyed on the 15th with a wedge in hand from the fairway. Spieth had two birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey in the last nine and shot 72 to tie for 10th place.

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