Xander Schauffele never stops making up ground.
After going more than two years without a victory, Schauffele won the Scottish Open on Sunday after overcoming a difficult stretch in the middle of his round with two crucial birdies and a par-saving par.
Next up is the Open Championship at St. Andrews, the purest test of all on Scottish soil. As one of the most popular players in the world, Schauffele travels to the birthplace of golf.
For the first time, a European tour event was co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
The 28-year-old San Diego resident played well after his 8-foot par saves on The Renaissance Club’s par-3 17th gave him a 2-shot lead. He used an iron off the 18th tee to stay out of trouble, but he ultimately missed an 8-foot par that didn’t change the outcome.
Kurt Kitayama finished one stroke behind Schauffele at 7-under 273 for the round (66).
Before missing a 6-foot par putt on the 17th hole and having to wait to see if his score would be good enough, Kitayama held a one-shot lead on the back nine and was still tied.
As a consolation prize, Kitayama was given one of the three berths in The Open’s field, making it his third consecutive appearance in the oldest tournament in golf.
The final two positions were shared by sixth-place finishers Jamie Donaldson and Brandon Wu.
Many others had the opportunity to enroll in St. Andrews. Since 2010, Rickie Fowler has competed in every Open Championship, and he was still in contention going into the Scottish Open’s final round. He nevertheless finished with a 75 and left for his own country across the Atlantic.
Before playing the back nine with two bogeys and no birdies and losing by two strokes, Ryan Palmer was likewise in a good position. For Alex Smalley, who only needed a par on the 18th to secure a spot, it was more difficult. He made an error.
Even for Schauffele, it wasn’t simple.