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Schauffele holds nerve to win Scottish Open

LONDON (AFP) – Xander Schauffele held his nerve in a tense final round to win the Scottish Open on Sunday as the Olympic champion made it three successive tournament triumphs.

Schauffele’s victory in Scotland maintained his momentum after taking the Travelers Championship and JP McManus Pro-Am title.

The 28-year-old American held a two-shot lead after three rounds and birdied the first two holes on Sunday to immediately double his advantage.

But the world number 11 dropped three shots in the space of four holes from the sixth to fall one behind fellow American Kurt Kitayama heading into the back nine.

Kitayama’s bogey on the 17th dropped him back into a share of the lead and a closing par completed a superb 66 to set what looked a testing clubhouse target of six under par at the Renaissance Club.

Schauffele regained his composure sufficiently to hole from 15 feet for birdie on the 14th and two-putt the par-five 16th for another to open up a two-shot cushion.

Xander Schauffele holds the trophy after winning the Genesis Scottish Open. PHOTO: AP

A crucial par save on the 17th allowed the 28-year-old the luxury of a bogey on the last hole as his level-par 70 secured a one-shot victory over Kitayama in the first event co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

“It’s an incredible feeling. It was a big sense of relief when that par putt went in on 17 and I could hit a couple of long irons on 18 and lag it up there,” Schauffele said.

“It was a very stressful day. Not going to put make-up on the pig here, it was a very average day. Probably my worst this week. Austin (his caddie) kept me calm.

“As boring as it is, you really can’t get ahead of yourself in links golf. I was ahead, I was behind, I was ahead, I was behind.

“Just kept my head down and this is very rewarding. This is the first of many co-sanctioned events and it’s an honour to win the first one.”

South Korea’s Kim Joo-hyung had birdied the 16th and 17th to join Kitayama on six under, but he three-putted the 18th.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth was within a shot of the lead when he birdied the 13th, but followed that with a double bogey on the next and eventually signed for a 72 to finish in a tie for 10th.

Kitayama, Brandon Wu and Jamie Donaldson secured the three places on offer in next week’s British Open at St Andrews for non-exempt players in the top 10.