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South Africa’s Stone wins Scottish Open but misses out on 59

LONDON – South Africa’s Brandon Stone came desperately close to the first 59 in European Tour history as he won the Scottish Open at the Gullane course near Edinburgh on Sunday.

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Given he had been a 1,000/1 outsider ahead of the tournament and that this win saw him qualify for next week’s British Open at Carnoustie, there was little reason for Stone to feel disappointed.

And yet, after a superb run of eight birdies and an eagle in his first 16 holes on Sunday, Stone needed to play the last two in one under par to break the famed mark of 60.

He made par on the 17th but then missed a birdie putt from eight feet on the last.

Nevertheless, Stone’s outstanding round of 60 left him on 20 under par and set a clubhouse lead that never looked like being bettered.

England’s Eddie Pepperell was four shots adrift after a 64 which also saw him qualify for the British Open and meant he would not be needed for commentary work at Carnoustie with BBC Radio.

Luke List of the United States, already exempt for The Open, former US Masters champion Trevor Immelman and overnight leader Jens Dantorp shared third place on 15 under.

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But unlike compatriot Stone, Immelman missed out on a place in The Open, with Sweden’s Dantorp taking the final qualifying spot thanks to a superior world ranking.

Stone, who was 69th in the world after finishing tied for fourth at the 2017 Joburg Open, began this week 371st in the global standings.

“It’s incredible,” said the 25-year-old after his third European Tour victory. “If I’m going to be brutally honest, I had no idea what my score was until I walked on to the 18th tee.

“It was just one of those days where everything went well, hit it great, holed some beautiful putts, and obviously to walk away with 60 having missed an eight-footer was a slight disappointment, but I won’t really complain.

“My caddie came up to me on the 18th and said you don’t get putts like this too often so I let him read it. I rolled it over his mark but he said it lacked a little bit of pace.”

Stone started his final round at Gullane three shots off the lead but covered the front nine in 31 and collected birdies on the 10th, 12th, 14th and 15th holes before sinking a curling eagle putt from 30 feet on the par-five 16th to give himself a chance of making golf history.

“When that thing went home the emotions came flooding in,” Stone said.

“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 (Sunday).

“The putting felt even better, the mental state was flawless. So a day where you’re shooting 60 and winning the Scottish Open is something I’m going to hold dear to my heart for a long time.”

AFP

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