Cabrera-Bello crowned Scottish Open champion
Rafa Cabrera-Bello will arrive at Royal Birkdale for the Open Championship with confidence high after being crowned the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open champion.
The Spaniard won his third Tour title after defeating Callum Shinkwin at the first play-off hole after the pair had tied at 13-under-par at Dundonald Links.
Cabrera-Bello carded an imperious closing round of eight-under-par 64 to set the clubhouse target but with Shinkwin requiring only a par at the par-5 18th to win his maidenTour event, the odds were heavily in favour of the 24-year-old Englishman, who had gone into the week in Ayrshire as world No. 405.
However, despite having not dropped a shot all day as he cruised round the links, Shinkwin crumbled under the pressure at the closing hole, taking four to get down from just through the green.
Both players hit fine drives at the first extra hole but after Shinkwin’s approach found an awkward, downhill lie by the greenside bunker, Cabrera-Bello hit a superb approach shot into the par-5 from 275 yards. He was able to two-putt to victory to clinch his first tour win since 2012 and set himself up perfectly for The Open which tees off on Thursday.
“I have been working really hard to try to get the third win,” the 33-year-old said. “Sometimes I felt that I have made mistakes and I end up not winning. Other times, I felt I’ve given a good charge, but other people deserved the win.
“This time, I really felt I played some of the best golf of my life. I had an unbelievable Sunday, and I really went for it on the play-off. So I’m extremely pleased that everything worked out my way.
“Knowing that I performed well in The Ryder Cup, that’s one of the most pressured situations in the world, really. That just proves to yourself that you can play good in any condition, in any golf event. Obviously a play-off is one of those situations. You draw back from those memories, really trust yourself and go for it. I mean, this time it worked out great.
“I was watching on TV. Obviously it was all in his (Shinkwin’s) hands. It must have been frustrating for him because I felt he got unlucky with the ball not rolling back to the bunker. Otherwise it would be him sitting here instead of me.”
Praising the 51,000 fans who turned out over the four days of competition, he added: “The spectators have been fantastic. Even seeing yesterday the rough day it was, having so many people for the conditions we had.
“I mean, golf in Scotland is huge and we always feel great support from the local crowd, and I think the venue has proven to be a very exciting venue.”
Shinkwin’s consolation prize is a place in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He will be joined by Frenchman Matthieu Pavon, who came third on 10 under par and Andrew Dodt, who was two further back at eight under alongside Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, Matt Kuchar of the USA, Englishman Anthony Wall and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
Dodt’s challenge for the title faded after four bogeys on the back nine and he finished in a tie for fourth on eight under with a 73, although he took the third Open spot, edging out Wall by virtue of his higher world ranking – 193 to 245.
Ian Poulter had gone into the final day tied for the lead but failed to make any sort of impression at the top of the leaderboard, finishing on nine-under par. Despite his disappointing finish, the Englishman will be another who heads to Birkdale with a spring in his step after a morale-boosting week in North Ayrshire.
Ryder Cup star Cabrera-Bello is the first Spanish winner of the AAM Scottish Open, and follows Alex Noren (BMW PGA Championship), Tommy Fleetwood (HNA Open de France) and his compatriot Jon Rahm (Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation) as a Rolex Series champion.
Shinkwin was left to rue his misfortune, saying: “It’s been a very good week. At the end of the day, I’m more than happy to finish second but the win was on my mind and didn’t happen.
“Of course I had a few nerves but to be fair it was nothing like what everyone probably thinks. I hit a great second shot in and finished in a divot on a downslope of the bunker. I had no shot, really. But it’s all a learning curve and obviously if you win, you have to have luck on your side. It wasn’t there for me.
“Now I’ve got enough ranking points to hopefully be in The Race to Dubai at the end of the year and hopefully I can carry on into next week.”
275 R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 70 72 69 64, C Shinkwin (Eng) 67 68 72 68.
278 M Pavon (Fra) 69 74 69 66.
280 M Kuchar (USA) 68 70 73 69, A Wall (Eng) 71 71 69 69, R Fox (Nzl) 72 69 69 70, A Dodt (Aus) 67 69 71, 73, P Harrington (Irl) 67 68 79 66.
281 R Rock (Eng) 73 69 73 66, L Slattery (Eng) 75 68 70 68, S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 72 70 68, A Sullivan (Eng) 70 72 67 72, I Poulter (Eng) 67 69 71 74, R Fowler (USA) 67 70 74 70.
282 B Grace (RSA) 75 67 72 68, B Ritthammer (Ger) 72 69 70 71, T Bjørn (Den) 72 71 72 67, J Carlsson (Swe) 73 69 68 72.
283 G McDowell (Nir) 75 68 68 72, N Colsaerts (Bel) 70 67 78 68, A Otaegui (Esp) 73 66 73 71, A Johnston (Eng) 73 68 70 72, R Bland (Eng) 69 74 68 72, R Sterne (RSA) 73 69 71 70, P Peterson (USA) 67 76 75 65.
284 A Knappe (Ger) 70 65 76 73, J Campillo (Esp) 72 69 73 70, P Dunne (Irl) 68 73 69 74, A Levy (Fra) 72 66 76 70, H Stenson (Swe) 72 69 75 68, R Wattel (Fra) 72 69 77 66.
286 R Ramsay (Sco) 68 74 72 72, R Fisher (Eng) 69 74 74 69, A Scott (Aus) 69 71 78 68.
288 S Gallacher (Sco) 68 72 79 69.
291 D Stewart (Sco) 71 70 78 72.
292 L Donald (Eng) 70 72 81 69.