Cabrera Bello beats Shinkwin in playoff, wins Scottish Open
By STEVE DOUGLAS
IRVINE, Scotland (AP) Rafa Cabrera Bello needed the best round of the week and one of the best shots of his life to end his 5 1/2-year wait for a victory on Sunday.
A 72nd-hole meltdown from Callum Shinkwin helped, too, at the Scottish Open.
On another signature day for Spanish golf in 2017, Cabrera Bello followed up an 8-under 64 - a course record at Dundonald Links - with a birdie in a sudden-death playoff against Shinkwin to win his third European Tour title.
He set up the birdie with a 3-wood to 8 feet from 275 yards on his second shot at the par-5 18th, having nearly found a burn running alongside the green with a similar shot in regulation play.
"I executed it perfectly," Cabrera Bello said. "One of the shots of my life."
Shinkwin, an unheralded Englishman ranked No. 405, left western Scotland with a spot in next week's British Open and the belief that he can compete with the game's best players.
And probably bad memories of the 18th hole at Dundonald Links.
Shinkwin started the final round in a share of the lead with Ian Poulter and Andrew Dodt, and led by a shot going down the last for the first time Sunday. Needing only a par to be assured of victory, he sent his second shot left and behind a greenside bunker, before chipping short of the green and seeing his ball roll back down beside the bunker.
From just off the green, he rolled a putt to 4 feet and left his par putt two inches short. He laughed and held his face in his hands, knowing he had dropped into a playoff with his only bogey in a round of 68. Shinkwin and Cabrera Bello finished on 13-under 275 overall.
Returning to the 18th for the playoff, Shinkwin was first with his second shot and put it exactly where he did about 30 minutes earlier. His chip shot over the bunker was only slightly better and he left his birdie putt agonizingly short again.
"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," Shinkwin said.
"Under the gun, I didn't miss a shot until the last hole."
In his final round, Cabrera Bello made eight birdies and didn't drop a shot. On his 72nd hole, his approach landed on the bank and nearly dropped into the burn, drawing gasps from spectators. He chipped out and made a birdie that ultimately forced the playoff.
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 sport - winning two titles, most recently at the Irish Open last week.
The last of Cabrera Bello's previous two titles on the European Tour came at the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2012.
"I have been fighting for this win for many years," he said. "Sometimes I did mistakes, sometimes it didn't work out for me.
"I think this is long overdue."
Cabrera Bello will climb into the world's top 20 heading into the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Matthieu Pavon and Dodt joined Shinkwin in qualifying for the Open courtesy of a top-10 finish for non-exempt players. Dodt was due to fly to New York on Monday for a five-day holiday with his wife.
Poulter was seeking a 14th worldwide win - and first since November 2012 - but was always playing catch-up after three-putting Nos. 1 and 4 for bogeys. He tied for ninth place alongside 2015 champion Rickie Fowler, who shot 70.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
Updated July 16, 2017