NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — Xander Schauffele continues to make up for lost time.
Without a win for more than two years, Schauffele picked up his fourth victory in the last 12 months on Sunday when he overcame a bad pass midway through his inning with two key birdies and a par save for an even 70 to win. the Scottish Open. .
Next up is another test on Scottish soil, this one the purest of them all, the Open Championship at St. Andrews. Schauele is heading to the homeland of golf as one of the hottest players in the world.
It was the first time the PGA Tour co-endorsed a European tour event.
“It’s just an honor to win the first one,” said Schauffele, who now has seven career PGA Tour titles.
His par 8-foot save on the par-3 17th at the Renaissance Club gave him a 2-stroke lead, and the 28-year-old from San Diego played it smart from there. He pulled the iron off the 18th tee to avoid trouble and missed an 8-foot par that only affected the margin.
Schauffele finished at 7 under 273, 1 stroke 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 putt on the 17th hole and then had to wait to see if his score would be good enough.
Kitayama’s consolation was earning one of three berths on the court at The Open, his third consecutive appearance at golf’s oldest championship. The other two spots went to Brandon Wu and Jamie Donaldson, tied for sixth.
So many others have been lucky enough to earn a place at St. Andrews. Rickie Fowler has played in every Open Championship since 2010 and entered the final round of the Scottish Open within range. But he finished with a 75 and was heading home across the Atlantic.
Ryan Palmer was also in position until he played the back nine with two bogeys and no birdies and missed by 2 shots. It was more difficult for Alex Smalley, who only needed a par from 18th to gain a place. He did bogey.
It wasn’t easy for Schauele either.
He started the final round with a 2-stroke lead and birdied the first two holes. He was 4 strokes ahead after five holes. And when he hit the back nine, he was 1 shot down.
“It was stressful,” Schauffele said. “I’m not going to make up the pig here. It was a very average day, probably my worst stuff this week. You can’t get ahead of yourself in the links of golf. I just kept my head down.”
It started to turn in his favor when Schauffele birdied 15ft on the 14th hole to regain the lead, then hit the par-5 16th for 2 to set up a 2-putt birdie that extended his lead to 2 strokes. . Equally important was the 17th, when he rolled from behind the green about 8 feet from the hole and went par to keep his cushion.
Schauffele has now won back-to-back PGA Tour starts – his win at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland earlier this week doesn’t count – ahead of the last major of the year. The last player to win back-to-back before a major was Dustin Johnson in 2016, then he finished tied for ninth in the Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Schauffele had gone more than three years without a win, dating from the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua to start 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 at the end of April, and now he’s added two more. This brings him to No. 5 in the world.
“Just to get over the hump, honestly, it was big,” he said of his first PGA Tour victory this year in New Orleans. “It was definitely a boost 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 in which his ball fell off the backslope 5 feet out for a 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 has had his share of adventures again.
He was less than a head shot away until he got his tee shot on the 14th in the tall grass, hacking long and making a double bogey, then taking bogey on the 15th with a corner in his hand from the fairway. Spieth had two birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey on the back nine and shot 72 to tie for 10th.