IRVINE, Scotland – Rafa Cabrera-Bello probably can’t believe his luck. He won his first tournament in five years thanks to a little help from England’s Callum Shinkwin.
The Spaniard set a new course record of 8-under 64 at Dundonald Links to finish at 13-under. He then beat Shinkwin in a playoff for the $7 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. However, the tournament should never have gone to extra holes.
Shinkwin had his first European Tour win in the bag standing on the par-5 18th hole with a one-shot lead. His tee shot split the fairway and then his dreams of the $1,166,660 first-place check disappeared.
The 24-year-old Englishman missed the green left with his second shot, with a bunker between him and the flag. He hit a poor chip shot that didn’t find the green, left his putt from off the green six feet short and missed the par putt.
Muchas gracias, said Cabrera-Bello.
The Spaniard won at the first extra hole, the par-5 18th, with a good drive and a 275-yard approach to within 15 feet. He two-putted for birdie and the win after Shinkwin left his eight-foot birdie putt short.
“Those are the moments we practice for,” Cabrera-Bello said. “I enjoy those pressure situations. I think they really define you. I hit a great shot and the birdie was enough to win.”
Shinkwin’s consolation is a check for $777,770 and a spot in next week’s Open Championship as one of three players in the top 10 not otherwise exempt into Royal Birkdale. France’s Matthieu Pavon finished third to take the second Birkdale spot. Andrew Dodt tied for fourth place to earn his ticket to this week’s Open Championship.
Cabrera-Bello, who made his Ryder Cup debut last year, has finished second six times since winning the 2012 Dubai Desert Classic. His most recent runner-up came at the end of last year in the UBS Hong Kong Open, part of this year’s European Tour schedule. He also has two other top-10 finishes this season. It was only a matter of time before he joined the winner’s circle again.
“I’ve won before and I have been up there so many, many times, and things were not really working out,” he said. “I was starting to feel a little pressure every time I was up there contending. So I’m really, really happy how I played today. In the playoff, I really gave it a go and extremely pleased it worked out for me.”
Shinkwin will think about what might have been in the days ahead, but he should take consolation from his best European Tour finish.
“It’s been a very good week,” Shinkwin said. “End of the day, I’ll be more than happy to finish second but the win was on my mind and didn’t happen. Now I’ve got enough ranking points to hopefully be in the Race to Dubai at the end of the year and hopefully I can carry on into next week.”
Eleven years ago, Shinkwin turned up as a six-handicap, 13-year-old to Ian Poulter’s Junior Invitational at Woburn Golf Club. He had ambitions then of joining Poulter on the European Tour.
Shinkwin began the final day tied with Poulter at the top of the leaderboard and impressed while his hero stumbled to a 74 to finish joint ninth.
Cabrera-Bello might have won the tournament, but watch out for Shinkwin. He’ll learn from this experience, and might just add his name to that growing cast of young Englishmen currently excelling on the European Tour.