Words by BGB Editorial
NORTH BERWICK, Scotland: Aaron Rai overcame the challenge of Tommy Fleetwood at the first extra hole to capture the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
The Englishman forced his way into contention with a dazzling closing 64 to set the clubhouse target at 11-under par.
“I didn’t really see many leaderboards all the way around. I knew we had to play well and knew we had to cope pushing forwards but luckily I had a good couple of breaks and also played very well, so I’m very pleased.”Aaron Rai
Overnight leader Robert Rock fell away with a bogey at the closing hole, before Fleetwood rolled in a 20-footer for birdie to pull alongside Rai and take the tournament into extra time.
The title looked to be heading Fleetwood‘s way as Rai found the fairway bunker off the tee at the 18th, but he scrambled an up and down and then watched on as Fleetwood missed a short putt for par, leaving Rai to celebrate a second Tour win.
“It’s incredible,” said Rai, who last tasted victory at the 2019 Honma Hong Kong Open. “I played a lot in Scotland growing up, dreamed of playing in a European Tour event in Scotland. To be able to play in it was incredible a couple of years ago and to be able to go still further is an incredible feeling.
“I didn’t really see many leaderboards all the way around. I knew we had to play well and knew we had to cope pushing forwards but luckily I had a good couple of breaks and also played very well, so I’m very pleased.
“The Race to Dubai wasn’t something I was thinking of, or certainly winning it wasn’t something I was thinking of before this week.
“Any time you’re up there in the Race to Dubai, whether it’s winning it, whether it’s in the top three, top five, it shows a great degree of consistency with some really top results, as well. So still a long way to go in the season but it’s a great spot to be in.”
For his compatriot Fleetwood it was a case of what might have been. He was left to rue two short putts that failed to drop – for birdie at the 16th and then at the first extra hole.
“I played really, really well today, especially on the back nine,” said Fleetwood, who carded 67 on Sunday. “At the end of the day, I holed that one on the last to get in the play-off but putting cost me overall throughout week. It summed it up with I just pulled a straight putt on the last.
“It’s disappointing. Of course, you always look at the positives but I messed up on the first play-off hole and that’s that.
“It’s Aaron’s time, Aaron’s week. He played great last week. A worthy winner.”
Rock finished in third following a closing 70, while Australia’s Lucas Herbert (65) and local lad Marc Warren (66) finished a shot further back on nine-under par.