Scottish Open: Bernd Wiesberger wins Scottish Open after play-off drama

Bernd Wiesberger: Enjoying his play at the ASI Scottish Open
Bernd Wiesberger: Enjoying his play at the ASI Scottish Open

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger bagged his sixth European Tour title and second of the year with a play-off victory in the Scottish Open.

Scoreboard

-22 Wiesberger*, Hebert

-20 Langasque

-19 Bertasio, Pavan, Stenson, Putnam, Johnston

-18 Thomas, Cabrera Bello, Coetzee, Slattery

*Wiesberger wins at third play-off hole


Day four report

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger won for the second time in his last six events as France's Benjamin Hebert suffered play-off heartbreak at the ASI Scottish Open.

Hebert set the clubhouse target on 22 under par after a brilliant 62, but overnight leader Wiesberger recovered from a slow start to reclaim top spot with his fourth birdie of the day on the 16th, only to bogey the 17th and then have to hole from five feet on the last to force a play-off.

The players returned to the 18th for the first extra hole and after Wiesberger two-putted for par, Hebert had a great chance to seal his first European Tour title but badly pushed his birdie attempt from eight feet.

Hebert had an even better chance to win when Wiesberger duffed his approach to the second play-off hole and then three-putted from short of the green.

However, Hebert also three-putted from 20 feet after charging his birdie putt four feet past and the pair headed back to the 18th tee once more.

At the third time of asking both players found the 18th green in regulation but amazingly Hebert three-putted again and Wiesberger just managed to coax in the winning par putt from three feet.

"I knew it was not going to come easy," said Wiesberger, who missed seven months of last season following wrist surgery. "I had a great warm up this morning and then it just got a little tough for me.

"I wasn't hitting the ball as good as the first three days and just dug in there. It was a great week for Ben, he could have snatched it off me on the first two play-off holes but I am so glad how it has turned out."

Wiesberger's victory took him top of the Race to Dubai while Hebert at least had the consolation of sealing one of the three qualifying places for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, with Andrew Johnston and Nino Bertasio taking the other two after finishing in a five-way tie for fourth.

Johnston, who recently opened up about the mental health struggles that followed his rapid rise to fame, surged through the field with a closing 62 and fought back tears as he spoke to reporters afterwards.

The 30-year-old's ready smile, trademark beard and nickname 'Beef' quickly made him a fan favourite and his cult status even led to sponsorship deals in the United States, including burger restaurant Arby's.

However, Johnston revealed in a recent blog on the European Tour website how he found himself crying alone in hotel rooms and unable to play competitive golf after putting too much pressure on himself to follow up his victory in the 2016 Spanish Open.

"It means a lot, it's been a tough year," Johnston said. "I was out there enjoying golf again, high-fiving the fans. It was a different kind of mindset. In the past I had put too much pressure on myself.

"I came back from America (in 2017) and finished 21st at Wentworth, 23rd in the French Open, 27th in the Open and I walked off every time disgusted with my performance. Now I look at it and think that is absolutely crazy.

"It's madness and that was the change of mindset but I didn't even realise it was happening and I was just slowly beating myself up for no reason."

Johnston was eventually persuaded to seek professional help and is on the road to recovery after working with sports psychologist Ben Davies and receiving a positive response to his blog.

"I've had a great reaction from it, some nice comments from players saying it has helped," Johnston added. "I think a lot of the guys have been through similar things which in a way is nice to hear. You don't want to see anyone down or anything like that but I'm not the only one.

"It can get tough out here, I want to do so well and win tournaments and I think the pressure I put on myself after 2016 and expectations were way too high instead of just having fun with it."

Day three report

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the £5.5million ASI Scottish Open as he chases a second win in his last six starts.

Wiesberger, who also finished second in the Irish Open on Sunday, carded a third round of 65 at The Renaissance Club to finish 20 under par, with South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen his nearest challenger following a 67.

France's Romain Langasque and Italy's Nino Bertasio were two shots further back, with former Ryder Cup star Jamie Donaldson and the English pair of Matt Wallace and Lee Slattery part of a five-strong group on 15 under.

Wiesberger, who missed seven months of last season after undergoing wrist surgery, said: "I'm enjoying being out there but am not looking ahead too far, there's still a lot of golf to be played.

"I caught a bit of fire before the turn with four birdies in five holes and, although it kind of stalled a bit, I was happy to get a couple more late in the round. I am quite pleased with the way I handled myself and finished off."

Donaldson has also recently returned to action following wrist surgery in November and won £900 for victory in a one-round event on the 1836 Pro Golf Tour in March.

Sunday's first prize is £927,000 and three places are also up for grabs in next week's Open Championship at Royal Portrush, where Donaldson won his first European Tour title in the 2012 Irish Open.

"I'll be keeping an eye on the leaderboard, I really want that Open spot of course, but winning is more important than that, that's the primary goal," Donaldson said after a 65.

"I just need to go out there and play like I played today and then I'll be buzzing."

Donaldson secured the winning point at Gleneagles in 2014 but is currently ranked 1,199th in the world and feared the injury to his left wrist meant his career might be over.

"I was just hoping it wasn't," the 43-year-old added. "There was no Plan B. There was a chance I could have taken a medical (exemption) this year and got the wrist perfect but I don't know how long that would have taken and would I have ever got to that position?

"I certainly can't get into a press-up position, I can't put too much force into my wrist. But these things just take time and you've got to be patient.

"I played five mini-tournaments on the 1836 Tour, just trying to get back to competitive play. Psychologically you've got to get over the initial worry that you're going to hurt it again.

"The swing over the past two or three years has probably gone off because of the wrist and now we're trying to find positions where it was around Gleneagles sort of time.

"As soon as I put the club in the right place the wrist would start hurting so your body will always adjust to where the pain isn't and that's what it's been doing the last two or three years."

Former Open champion Henrik Stenson went 52 holes without a dropped shot before a double bogey on the 17th left him six shots off the lead alongside Matt Fitzpatrick and Italy's Andrea Pavan, who made the cut on the mark of five under and surged through the field with a flawless 62.

Former world number one Justin Thomas was eight shots off the pace following a 70, while Rory McIlroy was a shot further back after a 68 which included four birdies in five holes from the fifth but also three bogeys.

"I feel like I played better than the score suggests and that's been the story of the week," McIlroy said. "The game is right there, I just need to go out tomorrow and shoot a good score and finish on a positive note."

Day two report

Henrik Stenson: Happy to be in touching distance at The Renaissance Club
Henrik Stenson: Happy to be in touching distance at The Renaissance Club

The ASI Scottish Open may not be providing the desired replica of the test which awaits in the Open at Royal Portrush, but Henrik Stenson was happy to produce a carbon copy of his first round to remain firmly in contention.

Stenson carded a second consecutive 65 at The Renaissance Club for a halfway total of 12 under par, two shots behind England's Lee Slattery, South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen, and Austria's Bernd Wiesberger.

Former world number one Justin Thomas is a shot further back following a 64, with Rory McIlroy six off the pace as the glut of low scoring saw the cut fall at five under par and result in early exits for McIlroy's playing partners Rickie Fowler and Robert MacIntyre.

"It was pretty much copy and paste from yesterday, six birdies, no bogeys and any time you can play 36 holes without dropping a shot is pretty good," said Stenson, who is seeking a first win in almost two years.

"It's more target golf than links golf but I am coming from three weeks off so I am trying to find some momentum as well and it's so far, so good.

"I want the wind to come up a little bit as I see this as good preparation for next week, although we are obviously playing for a strong title as well. It's a good way to tune up your game so I would have liked a bit more of a tougher test."

Thomas also made the journey to Scotland with an eye on improving his poor record in the Open having missed the cut in the last two years following a tie for 53rd on his debut at Royal Troon in 2016.

"If you told me I'd be 11 under I would not have guessed I'd be three shots back but I'm very happy to post two good scores," said Thomas, who was sidelined by a wrist injury earlier this season.

"This is not a traditional links but I'm getting some good competitive feedback which is important not only for the Open next week but the rest of the year."

Lee Slattery: In contention in Scotland
Lee Slattery: In contention in Scotland

Slattery, featured in Ben Coley's pre-tournament tips at 300/1, had set the early clubhouse target after a second successive 64 which put him in pole position to claim one of the three qualifying places available for Portrush.

"That was the primary goal for the week because if you qualify for the Open that means you've had a good week and anything else is a bonus," said Slattery, who shot 65 in the first round of the Irish Open last week but faded to a tie for 27th.

"Last week I started so well but did not follow it up so to get out there and start fast today was the key."

Van Rooyen, tipped by Coley at 50/1, matched Slattery's 64 but the lowest round of the day, and the week so far had come from the in-form Wiesberger, who birdied his last five holes in an inward half of 29 to set a new course record of 61.

Wiesberger, who was runner-up to Jon Rahm at Lahinch on Sunday, missed seven months of last season after wrist surgery and said: "It's been tough the last year. Coming off injury it's been hard, but winning in Denmark a couple of weeks ago is a big boost to me.

"I really enjoy my time out on the golf course again. Maybe take it not as serious as I've done before and let it go and that really helped me."

McIlroy admits he will need to reproduce the flying finish which gave him victory in the Canadian Open to win another national title in Scotland.

"It looks like I am going to have to pick up the pace this weekend if I want to have a chance to win," said McIlroy, who shot rounds of 64 and 61 over the weekend in Ontario a month ago.

"But I did it in Canada and my game feels as good now as it did then."

Shot of the day came from Welshman Bradley Dredge who won a BMW X7 worth almost £90,000 for a hole-in-one on the 17th during a round of 63.


Day one report

Edoardo Molinari in action at the Scottish Open
Edoardo Molinari in action at the Scottish Open

Edoardo Molinari will gladly swap a holiday on the beaches of Portofino for a week in Portrush if it means competing alongside younger brother Francesco as he defends his Open title.

Three places in the year's final major are up for grabs for players who finish in the top 10 at the ASI Scottish Open and Edoardo occupies one of them after an opening 63 on a day of incredibly low scoring at The Renaissance Club.

At eight under par Molinari shared the lead with Matt Kuchar, Romain Wattel and Nino Bertasio, although 53 players shot four under par or better and level par was only good enough for 119th place in the 156-man field.

"I was very close to qualifying for the Open last week, I only missed by a couple of shots in the end," 2010 Scottish Open champion Molinari said after a round containing two eagles, five birdies and a solitary bogey.

"It would obviously be special to be there when Francesco is the defending champion. That would be a great thing. But I'm not planning on going if I don't make it in. I've planned a summer holiday with my wife and two kids, so I definitely won't go.

"If I'm not at Portrush I will be lying on the beach in Portofino, although I'll definitely watch some golf in the evenings, over the weekend, certainly."

Wattel and Bertasio are also chasing the Open places along with the likes of Lee Slattery and Jamie Donaldson, who won the Irish Open when it was staged at Royal Portrush in 2012.

"To play next week would be huge," said Donaldson, who has missed the cut in four of his six events in 2019 after seven months on the sidelines following wrist surgery.

"If I can get into a position to get in that would be just fantastic and I would be really, really buzzing to get back there.

"It has been tough getting going again after seven months out, the momentum is not quite there but it's a case of keeping going until you start to put it all together again."

Former Open champion Henrik Stenson is two shots off the pace after a bogey-free 65 but admitted "target golf" was not the ideal preparation for Portrush, where he spent two days preparing last week.

"You want to be in the mindset of landing a pitching wedge five or six paces short of the pin and skipping forward, but all of a sudden they are now spinning back," Stenson said.

"It's almost like you have to force yourself in the other direction. Normally you want time to readjust coming from target golf."

Pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy made a flying start to his round with four birdies in the first six holes but was unable to make any further progress to end the day four off the pace.

"I think they were pretty generous in terms of the course set-up because they have never been here before," McIlroy said. "The rain softened the greens and any links course we go to where there is not much wind people are going to rip it apart.

"It was sort of tough to get it close to the holes coming in just because the wind had picked up. But overall pretty pleased with how the day went."

McIlroy praised the performance of playing partner Robert MacIntyre, the 22-year-old left-hander carding a 68 as he continues his impressive debut season on the European Tour.

"I thought he did great," McIlroy added. "I said to him I enjoyed watching him at Hillside when he finished second in the British Masters and he played great here, he handled himself really well.

"He got off to a nice start, it was a bit of a shaky one for him around the middle but he came back with a couple of birdies coming in. I thought he did very well."

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