Stone wins Scottish Open, misses 1st 59 on European Tour
By STEVE DOUGLAS
GULLANE, Scotland (AP) Brandon Stone sank to his haunches, clasped his face and dropped his putter in despair after coming within inches of being the first player to shoot a round of 59 on the European Tour.
It wasn't all bad for the South African golfer.
Stone's 10-under 60 secured a four-shot victory at the Scottish Open on Sunday, earning him a third professional title of his career - the first outside his native country - and the bonus prize of a qualifying spot in next week's British Open just up the east coast at Carnoustie.
He left the Gullane links with a slight sense of regret, though.
Stone's approach to the 18th green skipped on and came to rest about 8 feet from the hole. As he walked up to the green, he looked at a scoreboard for the first time all day, totted up the birdies - and eagle - that he'd made and then looked at his caddy, Teagan Moore.
"He went, `Yeah, we've got a shot at a 59,'" Stone said.
He let his caddy read the line - "This is completely up to you," Stone told him - and the putt looked like it was going to roll into the cup, only for it to curl just left. Stone slumped almost to his knees, put both hands to his face, then stared at the ball for some time.
"I rolled it over his mark," Stone said of his caddy, "but he did criticize my pace so he is probably right. Didn't hold its line, but we'll take it."
That elusive sub-60 round in 46 years of European Tour play will have to wait for another tournament. It was officially the 19th round of 60 on the tour - 18 players have achieved the feat, with Darren Clarke doing so twice.
There have officially been nine sub-60 rounds on the PGA Tour, with one of them being a 58 - by Jim Furyk at the Travelers Championship in 2016.
For the No. 371-ranked Stone, it was a return to form after a disappointing season. He had missed the cut at nine of his previous 16 events and recorded only two finishes inside the top 60 in 20 starts since October.
His previous wins both came in South Africa, at the BMW SA Open in 2016 and Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2017.
"When that thing went home, the emotions came flooding," said the 25-year-old Stone, who described his golf this week as "monumental."
"I had to really struggle to keep it in. It's been a long 18-month journey making a few changes, but the swing felt incredible today, the putting even better and the mental state was flawless.
"A day when you shoot 60 and win the Scottish Open is something I'm going to hold dear to my heart for a very long time."
Stone rolled in four birdies on the front nine, then more on Nos. 10, 12, 14 and 15. He curled in a 40-foot eagle putt at No. 16, virtually guaranteeing him the win and leaving him needing one birdie on his final two holes for a 59.
On No. 17, he left a long putt short before more agony at the last.
Stone's run of back-nine birdies allowed him to pull clear of Eddie Pepperell, who led for much of the final round after picking up six strokes in his first 10 holes. He shot 64 to finish alone in second place, one clear of Luke List (64), 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman (65) and unheralded Swede Jens Dantorp (68).
Rickie Fowler, the champion the last time the Scottish Open was staged at Gullane in 2015, shot 68 and was in a three-way tie for sixth place.
Pepperell and Dantorp joined Stone in securing last-gasp places at the British Open, for being the leading three players not otherwise exempt for Carnoustie who finished in the top 10.
Stone had been planning to go on a whisky tour next week. Instead, he'll be playing the world's oldest major for the third time.
"Hopefully I can find some accommodation, if I can be brutally honest," Stone said. "I wasn't exactly planning on going."
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
Updated July 15, 2018