GULLANE, Scotland (AP) — Rickie Fowler had a season full of near misses last year. He’s finding the winner’s circle much easier to locate in 2015.
Two months after winning The Player Championship to end a three-year title drought, Fowler produced another nerveless display down the stretch to capture the Scottish Open on Sunday for his first victory on European soil.
The American birdied three of the last four holes over the Gullane links for a 2-under 68 in his final round to overhaul compatriot Matt Kuchar and win by one shot. Fowler took the outright lead for the first time this week with his last shot of the tournament, a tap-in putt from inside two feet after a stunning approach with a 57-degree wedge from 109 yards.
“I can definitely get used to having more of these,” Fowler said, looking at the gleaming trophy in front of him.
All the current talk in golf is of the fight for global domination between Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. Fowler, a top-five finisher in all four majors in 2014, has been elbowed out of that particular conversation.
Perhaps that should be revised.
Fowler certainly is proving he can rise to the big occasion. He went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie on the last four holes at The Players to force a playoff in the greatest finish in the 34-year history of the TPC Sawgrass.
Here, he reacted to a bogey on No. 14 to go birdie-birdie-par-birdie.
“Very similar to down the stretch at The Players,” Fowler said. “Worked out just fine.”
It is the fourth title of Fowler’s professional career, and the second outside the United States after the Korea Open in 2011. And his links game looks in good shape ahead of next week’s British Open at St. Andrews.
“To win on a links golf course, my favorite style of golf, in Scotland and the week before the Open and going to St. Andrews, the Home of Golf is great timing,” he said.
“I like my chances (at the British Open).”
Kuchar was on the practice range, preparing for a playoff after shooting a 68, when applause drifted across from the grandstands on No. 18. Fowler had just nailed his approach.
After knocking in what proved to be the winning putt, Fowler doffed his cap and acknowledged the crowd. But he had to wait for the final pairing of France’s Raphael Jacquelin and England’s Daniel Brooks to play the last before really celebrating.
Jacquelin was the only one who could force a playoff, but he needed an eagle 2. That almost happened, with his approach from 120 yards spinning back to a foot from the cup.
Jacquelin shot 70 to tie for second place with Kuchar, and claim one of three British Open places on offer. Brooks, ranked No. 528 and the third-round leader by a shot, and Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg took the others for finishing in the top 10.
Playing the biggest round of his life, Brooks’ driving was poor and he was forced to scramble for a 73 that tied for seventh with Luke Donald (66) and Ross Fisher (68).
Marc Warren of Scotland shot 64 to finish in a three-way tie for fourth on 10 under, with Eddie Pepperell (69) and Joost Luiten (70).
Fowler decided to alter his schedule and play the Scottish Open the week before British Open for the first time last year, after seeing Phil Mickelson win both events in 2013.
He is halfway toward emulating his compatriot two years on.
“I told him I would see if I could take care of the first leg of it,” Fowler said, of his conversation with Mickelson on the morning of the final round.
“Got that done. But there’s a lot of work to get done to get a win next week.”
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