The Scottish Open is a historic and hugely prestigious tournament in its own right. However, it is given that extra something special by its place in the European Tour schedule, the week before the Open Championship. By holding the tournament at quality links golf courses in Scotland, the organisers help to attract an excellent, international field year after year.
The importance of the Scottish Open means that it was no surprise that it was one of the first tournaments added to the Rolex Series when that was introduced in 2017. The tournament also provides the final chance (alongside the John Deere Classic) to qualify for the Open so there is always a lot to play for.
2022: Xander Schauffele
The 2022 Scottish Open was the first tournament co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. For all the disappointment that the Renaissance Club is not a genuine test of links golf, the tournament attracted a very strong field full of players sharpening their game ahead of the Open. Many of the biggest names in the field were involved in the sharp end of the tournament but none could match Xander Schauffele’s tally of seven under par.
After a run of three years without a victory, Schauffele has quickly rattled off a string of wins. The Scottish Open was his third PGA Tour title of the season while he also won the JP McManus Pro-Am against another incredibly strong field. The most impressive part of this win was that Schauffele didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday. A series of mistakes on the front nine threatened to derail his title bid but he drew on all his experience to put together a controlled back nine.
Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Patrick Cantlay all applied pressure on Schauffele at times on Sunday. It was two less-heralded names – Kurt Kitayama and Joohyung Kim – who went closest to forcing their way through to a playoff though. A pair of birdies on 14 and 16 was enough for Schauffele to close the door on his competitors for a win he described as, “an incredible feeling.”
2021: Min Woo Lee
The weather forecast for the Sunday of the 2021 Scottish Open was clear that some heavy rain would fall around half past four. Still, the European Tour believed that they could get the tournament finished before the worst of the weather came in. They were mistaken. The final round had to be suspended due to the threat of lightning right at the business end of the tournament. As if that wasn’t enough stress to be dealing with, the Scottish Open then went to a three-man playoff in which Min Woo Lee triumphed over Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Few fancied Lee to win his first Rolex Series event even at the start of play on Sunday. However, Lee quicky overcame the three-shot deficit with which he started the final round thanks to a phenomenal run of six straight birdies from the third hole. He was never going to be able to maintain that level of scoring and Detry and Fitzpatrick made plenty of birdies of their own to set up the playoff.
Lee said afterwards that he spent the 90 minute weather delay watching the Wimbledon final and drew inspiration from Novak Djokovic’s win. “It was nice to see Djokovic come in and do his interview,” the Australian said. “I thought that was a good feeling and I might want to do that.” He certainly did and was delighted with his second of what could be very many European Tour titles.
2020: Aaron Rai
For the third time in four years, the winner of the Scottish Open had to come through a playoff to get his hands on the trophy. Aaron Rai did not mind going the extra yards though as this was the biggest win of his career by some distance. The Englishman’s previous European Tour win came in the 2018 Hong Kong Open but victory over Tommy Fleetwood in a Rolex Series event was a big step up and justified to Rai that the work he has put into his game has been time and effort well spent.
Rai’s delight at the end of the tournament was matched by Fleetwood’s disappointment. Whenever players lose by slim margins there is a tendency to look back at individual moments and shots and it is very easy to do that with Fleetwood’s final round. A short birdie putt got away from him on 16 and Fleetwood somehow missed from five feet in the playoff to hand the tournament to Rai.
Fleetwood was typically magnanimous afterwards saying, “it was Aaron’s time and Aaron’s week” and Rai responded, saying that it was “not nice to see” Fleetwood’s missed putt. It was much nicer for Rai’s family, friends and team to see him lift the Scottish Open trophy and earn over $1.1 million in prize money.
2019: Bernd Wiesberger
The British sport of summer was in full flow by the time the 2019 Scottish Open began and the historic tournament showed that it was capable of serving up as much drama as any other event. Bernd Wiesberger came through a rollercoaster of a day, eventually triumphing in a playoff over Benjamin Hebert to add his name to other sporting victors on the day which included Novak Djokovic’s final set tie break win over Roger Federer in the final of Wimbledon and England’s super over win against New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup.
Wiesberger had hoped for a drama-free day when he began his final round. He was the 54-hole leader but couldn’t quite get into top gear on a day when others found scoring relatively easy. It was Herbert who really took advantage of the conditions by firing in a fantastic round of 62 which was nine under par and enough to set up a playoff with Wiesberger.
Herbert’s round meant he had all the momentum heading into the playoff and he came very close to winning the tournament, missing putts on both of the first two trips up the 18th hole at the Renaissance Club. Wiesberger may have had to ride his luck but he stuck to his task and a par on the third extra hole was enough after Herbert narrowly missed another putt.
2018: Brandon Stone
You would think that it would be impossible for any golfer to be even a tiny bit disappointed with a final round of -10 which saw them win the Scottish Open with a score of -20. Brandon Stone certainly wasn’t complaining and was delighted to get his hands on the trophy but there was that nagging disappointment that he didn’t put the cherry on the cake by shooting a historic 59 at Gullane.
Stone’s incredible run of golf on Sunday saw him pick up as many shots on one day as he did in the three days before. Starting the final round on -10, Stone trailed Eddie Pepperell but by the end of play he was on -20, four shots ahead of the Englishman.
Pepperell admitted afterwards that he was unable to live with Stone’s scoring on Sunday but he was happy with his week’s work. Stone summed the week but by calling his victory “really incredible”. The South African said that he didn’t know he was on for the first-ever 59 on the European Tour until he got on the 18th green hence his disappointment at missing his birdie putt despite having run away with the Scottish Open.
2017: Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Golf is a sport in which you lose many, many more times than you win. Losing is part and parcel of the sport but some losses hurt much more than others. Callum Shinkwin had never tasted victory on the European Tour when he turned up for the 2017 Scottish Open and the nature of his loss at Dundonald Golf Links will take a long time to get over. On the flip side, this is a week that will live long in the memory of Rafa Cabrera-Bello who claimed his first European Tour victory since 2012 thanks to a dramatic finish.
Shinkwin was a real outsider for the tournament. He was outside of the top 400 in the world rankings but put himself into a very good position to win on Sunday thanks to highly accomplished golf in some brutal conditions on the first three days. Despite all the pressure on his shoulders to break his European Tour duck, Shinkwin never looked like crumbling. Until the final hole. He only needed a par for a win but somehow left a very makeable putt short meaning that he would go into a playoff.
Cabrera-Bello only needed one extra hole. He hit a superb fairway wood into the green and followed with a fairly routine two-putt to win. As gutting as it was for Shinkwin, Cabrera-Bello was a worthy winner as his final round of 64 was the best of the week.