Brandon Stone shoots 60 to post 20-under target in Scottish Open

Golf
Brandon Stone with the biggest title of his career
Brandon Stone with the biggest title of his career

South African youngster Brandon Stone produced one of the biggest shocks in European Tour history after a closing round of 60 in the Scottish Open saw him win for the third time as a professional.

Final leaderboard

-20 Brandon Stone*

-16 Eddie Pepperell*

-15 Luke List, Trevor Immelman, Jens Dantorp*

-14 Thomas Pieters, Rickie Fowler

*Qualifies for the Open Championship

Day four report

South African youngster Brandon Stone produced one of the biggest shocks in European Tour history after a closing round of 60 in the Scottish Open saw him win for the third time as a professional.

Starting round four just three shots off the lead on a jam-packed leaderboard, Stone was 10-under for the day after an incredible an eagle at the par-five 16th, but missed birdie chances at the final two denied him the chance to record the circuit's first ever round of 59.

Stone's best chance came at the 18th, where another fine approach left eight feet for birdie, but his ball dived left at the hole as he instead settled for just the 29th round of 60 in European Tour history, his consolation the biggest title of his career and with it a place in the field for the Open Championship.

As he signed his scorecard, Stone held a five-shot advantage over Jens Dantorp, tied for third but the only player on the course with sufficient holes remaining to potentially catch the leader, but it soon became clear that the Swede would not spoil the party.

"It's incredible, if I'm going to be brutally honest I had no idea what my score was until I walked up to the 18th green," Stone told Sky Sports.

"My caddie said 'you don't get putts like this too often'. It didn't hold its line, but we'll take it.

"The putt on 16 is pretty much where the tournament was won for me.

"It's been a long 18-month journey but the swing felt great and the mental state was flawless."

Stone arrived at Gullane having seen his world ranking plummet almost 200 places since the start of the year, his best finish so far a tie for 22nd in Morocco.

Since that effort in the spring, the 25-year-old had made seven starts without registering a single top-50 finish and signed off the Irish Open with a round of 77, one he so nearly bettered by a shot a hole in an event he started as a 1000.0 chance on the exchanges.

With victory, Stone earns a place in the Open along with runner-up Eddie Pepperell, who for so much of Sunday looked like the man to beat until a three-putt bogey at the 17th came just as the eventual champion was really making his move.

"The only consolation is it looks like 18 under wouldn't have been enough," Pepperell said. "But on the whole I hit the ball great. Just obviously fell a bit short, but there's certainly a lot more positives than negatives."

The third available Open spot goes to Jens Dantorp, who finished in a share of third and edged out former Masters champion on account of their respective world rankings.

Day three report

Russell Knox admits it would be a "dream come true" to win the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and secure back-to-back victories on the European Tour.

Six days after beating Ryan Fox in a play-off to win the Irish Open, Knox heads into the final round at Gullane just two shots behind surprise leader Jens Dantorp.

The Swede birdied the last three holes to finish 13 under par and edge ahead of Fox, Rickie Fowler, Matt Fitzpatrick, Scott Hend, Marcel Siem and Alexander Bjork.

England's Tyrrell Hatton and Aaron Rai share eighth place with Knox on 11 under, with the top 26 players separated by just four shots.

"Winning your home Open is a massive goal. Other than winning a major, this is right up there with the tournament you really want to win the most," said Knox, who was raised in Inverness but attended Jacksonville University and stayed in Florida after graduating.

"I watched Rory do it a couple of years ago in Ireland and I remember it well. The crowd were not rooting against me by any means but as I birdied 15 and went one ahead that was when the crowd thought 'Oh no, Rory might not win.'

"Then he went on to hit the best shot he's ever hit (to set up an eagle on the 72nd hole) and that was that."

Knox had to settle for a tie for second on that occasion but a victory at Gullane on Sunday would take his earnings to more than £2million in the last three weeks and make him a near-certainty for a Ryder Cup debut in September.

"I was very tired on Saturday but slept like a king last night and tomorrow the adrenaline will be pumping so I will be fine," added the 33-year-old, who was controversially overlooked for a wild card by captain Darren Clarke in 2016.

That was despite being ranked 20th in the world, higher than seven members of the European side which went on to lose at Hazeltine.

"Winning is fun and I still have not come down from winning in Ireland. Confidence snowballs in a good and bad way and obviously I'm on a good wave at the moment. Hopefully I can keep riding it."

Fowler, who won this event the last time it was staged at Gullane in 2015, was one over par after 10 holes of a windswept third round, but birdied the 11th, 15th and 16th to remain firmly in contention.

However, England's Robert Rock, who enjoyed a two-shot overnight lead, struggled to a 76 to fall six shots off the pace.

Day two report

Six years after beating Tiger Woods head-to-head, England's Robert Rock achieved another personal milestone to claim the halfway lead in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

Rock added a second round of 63 to his opening 64 at a defenceless Gullane for a halfway total of 13 under par and two-shot lead over compatriot Tyrrell Hatton and Sweden's Jens Dantorp, with Eddie Pepperell and 2015 champion Rickie Fowler another stroke back.

Lee Westwood was part of a four-strong group on nine under, with former Masters champion Trevor Immelman on eight under par alongside first-round leader Luke List.

Rock, 41, has not dropped a shot over the first 36 holes for the first time in his career and is in pole position to secure one of the three qualifying places on offer for next week's Open Championship, although he will be in Carnoustie anyway in his role as coach to a number of fellow players.

"I've started well in a few tournaments recently but it's all about putting four rounds together and that's the challenge," said Rock, whose last European Tour title came in Abu Dhabi in 2012, where he played the final round alongside Woods and outscored the world number one by two, with Rory McIlroy finishing runner-up and Woods in a tie for third.

"Getting into the Open is everything, but you have to focus on this event first and play the course here before that. I hate missing the Open. I'll be there whatever happens as a coach but it's hard going just as a coach and not playing."

Hatton won the Dunhill Links in 2016 and 2017 and revealed another victory here would be a welcome boost for his mother Karen, who lives near Inverness and is recovering at home after undergoing surgery to remove a tumour in her lung.

"It was lucky they caught it early," Hatton said. "She will be watching on TV and I'll try my best to be up there come Sunday."

Despite adding a bogey-free 64 to his opening 65, Hatton was far from satisfied with his ball-striking, adding: "On some shots I literally didn't even hit grooves. I was so far out of the toe I'm surprised it went forward to be honest.

"Me and the driving range aren't friends so I'll stay away from that, have the afternoon off and hopefully wake up with a good swing tomorrow."

Pepperell finished fourth when the Scottish Open was last staged at Gullane in 2015 and needs another top-10 this week to have the chance of securing a second Open appearance.

"The two similarities between 2015 and now is that I haven't played a practise round and stayed in Edinburgh both times," Pepperell said.

"That seems to be the secret for me, just go out and have nice meals in Edinburgh and drink a bit of wine and come up here and play for four hours.

"I'm actually going to be commentating for BBC Five Live for a couple of days if I don't play. Obviously I'd rather be playing but we'll just wait and see."

Scotland's Connor Syme set a new course record of 62 early in the day which was broken shortly before 8pm by Japan's Hideto Tanihara, who recorded an eagle and seven birdies in his first 15 holes to threaten the first 59 in European Tour history before eventually signing for a 61.

In contrast, five-time major winner Phil Mickelson missed the cut after finishing one under par, admitting: "I have some work to do on my game, I didn't play great. Now I'll have a couple of extra days to go over to Carnoustie and try to get it done."

Day one report

Lee Westwood admits he is too old to get carried away by the prospect of a first European Tour title since 2014 after making an excellent start to the £5.3million ASI Scottish Open.

Westwood carded a bogey-free 64 at Gullane to share second place with 2015 winner Rickie Fowler, Robert Rock, Scott Fernandez and Jens Dantorp - a shot behind leader Luke List, whose seven-under-par 63 equalled the course record.

Masters champion Patrick Reed was part of an eight-strong group a shot further back following a 65, with Danny Willett continuing his resurgence with a 66 and Olympic champion Justin Rose returning a 67.

Westwood has played just nine events this season after falling out of the world's top 50 and being ineligible for the Masters, US Open and World Golf Championship events, but the 45-year-old insists he still has the desire to compete at the highest level.

"I'm 45 now so I can't play as much as I used to, I'm certainly fresh," said Westwood, who will be one of Thomas Bjorn's vice-captains when Europe attempt to retain the Ryder Cup in Paris in September.

"But I'm still willing to go out there and practice and work hard on the range and if you're willing to do that your hunger levels are high.

"I'm gradually able to take the form on the range on to the golf course and I played lovely today. I didn't put myself in any trouble and gave myself a lot of chances.

"I'm trying not to get excited at all, I'm just trying to control what I can and if it happens, it happens. I've never got too far in front of myself and that's why I have been a prolific winner throughout my career."

Fowler raised the prospect of recording the first 59 in European Tour history after five birdies and an eagle took him to seven under par after 12 holes of the par-70 layout.

But a bogey on the 13th was followed by five straight pars as the inward nine played much harder back into the wind, Reed also racing to the turn in 29 before coming home in 36.

"I love playing links golf and being able to use your imagination and hit different shots," said Fowler, whose victory at Gullane in 2015 prompted the members to rename the clubhouse bar in his honour. "I feel like this golf course, you go around and you hit pretty much every club in your bag."

Rock carded six birdies in a bogey-free round as he looks to secure one of the three places available in next week's Open Championship for players finishing in the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt.

"It's the last chance and it's always disappointing to not play the Open," said the 41-year-old, who finished seventh at St Andrews in 2010.

"I'm going as a coach anyway (he coaches fellow Englishman Matt Wallace) so I'll be there. But I'd like to be playing."

On a day when almost 100 players broke par, five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who won the 2013 Open at nearby Muirfield, could only manage a level-par 70.

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