A stunning year for Spanish Golfers shows no sign of slowing down.
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello birdied the first play-off hole to deny Callum Shinkwin and capture the Scottish Open. English world number 405 Shinkwin, 24, took six shots when needing a par five at the final hole for a first European Tour title, but qualifies for the Open. Cabrera-Bello carded an eight-under course record 64 to finish the regulation 72 holes in 13 under. Shinkwin, from Watford, had been at the top of the leaderboard since the second round and did not drop a shot in the first 17 holes on the final day at the Dundonald Links in Ayrshire. But he took four to get down from level with the green at the par-five 18th, leaving a seven-foot putt short. Then at the same hole in the play-off, he saw a putt from a similar spot also fail to reach the cup. Cabrera-Bello on the other hand played “one of the shots of my life” when he sent a 3-wood from 275 yards to within 8 feet. His eagle putt came short but he tapped in for birdie, for his third European title and his first since 2012.
His win continues a stunning year for Spanish golf, with Sergio Garcia winning the Masters for his first major title and Jon Rahm — a rising star of the game — winning two titles, most recently at the Irish Open last week.
Onto the Irish golfers and Padraig Harrington will return to Birkdale, where he won the 2008 Open, in fine spirits after a 66. Harrington’s eight under total secured him a top-five place. Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell had hoped a first top-10 of the season would earn him a place at Royal Birkdale next week but he carded a 72 to finish on five under in a share of 19th. The 37-year-old world number 102 has played in the Championship every year since making his debut in 2004.
Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, admitted he is still troubled by the rib injury which has disrupted his year. The Northern Irishman missed the cut, meaning a weekend spent at the Open venue. “I am feeling OK, but it is something I am going to have to manage until the end of the year,” he said, speaking at Birkdale on Sunday. “It is good enough to play, it is good enough to practise a little bit. I hit balls for an hour and a half last night, but then felt stiff and said: ‘That’s enough.’ But at least I know when enough is. “I am just going to manage the load for the rest of the season, then I am just going to have a nice rest period when I don’t have to touch a club and let it and heal. Then hopefully I’ll be 100% for next year. It is just something I have to be mindful of for now.”
Henrik Stenson, who will defend the Claret Jug from Thursday, cut a downbeat figure despite signing off here with a 68. “I know I’m not really where I want to be with my game,” said the Swede. “The long game hasn’t been in good shape for a long time. I don’t feel I have enough game to play the way I want to, and as soon as you go into practice mode you are losing the possibility to play your best. It’s a tricky one. “I’m still going to enjoy next week. Who knows? It might be my only Open as defending champion. I think that’s the most important thing coming into an event like this, not feeling that you’re playing anywhere near 100%. Maybe we can turn things around a little bit but I need to step it up quite a lot.”