Johnston seals Open spot as Wiesberger triumphs
While events at the sun-baked Scottish Open were never likely to match the pyrotechnics at Lord’s or on Centre Court, golf ’s finest did their best to ramp up the drama here.
A stellar nine-under final round of 62 from Benjamin Hebert, plus the disintegration of the overnight leader Bernd Wiesberger in the final three holes, resulted in a dramatic denouement after the two men finished the tournament tied on 22 under par.
But on Bastille Day, wearing a specially designed tricolour cap, the pressure finally caught up with the Frenchman.
Despite a nerveless round on the final day to force a play-off after a nervy Wiesberger bogeyed the 17th, when it came to the sudden death holes it was Hebert who succumbed.
With the first two play-off holes halved after the pair parred then bogeyed the 18th hole, with Hebert missing a four-foot winning putt second time around, the Frenchman then three-putted the 18th at the third time of asking, allowing Wiesberger to take home the winner’s cheque of almost £1million.
“I knew it was going to be the biggest tournament that I’ve been in a position to win,” said the Austrian, “so I knew it was going to be a tough grind. I struggled a little bit with my iron shots but I dug deep and was rewarded in the end.”
For Hebert, who has yet to win on the European Tour, his consolation prize is a place in next week’s Open for the first time as a professional. Andrew “Beef” Johnston – who also shot a stunning round of 62 – and Italy’s Nino Bertasio are the other two players to join him at Royal Portrush courtesy of their performances in East Lothian.
For Wiesberger, Hebert’s playoff putting woes spared his blushes after he began the day at 20 under, two shots ahead of Erik van Rooyen, four clear of the field and seven shots ahead of Hebert, only to almost let the Frenchman steal off with his prize. When Wiesberger birdied the par-five 16th, he led at 23-under, only to bogey the par-three 17th, followed by a nervy up and down to save par on the final hole.
Wiesberger has now won six times on the European Tour, and is back to his best after recovering from surgery on his wrist that ended his outside chance of making the last Ryder Cup side.
It is also his second victory in three months, having won the Made In Denmark tournament from Bob Macintyre at the end of May.
But Wiesberger is not the only player whose fortunes have undergone a dramatic upturn. Johnston’s nine-under round of 62 came following a time of extraordinary turmoil for the Englishman, who recently spoke candidly about the depression which forced him to take a break from the game.
At the end of his round, an emotional Johnston struggled to hold back tears as his voice broke several times. “That was very special, I loved every minute of it,” he said. “I thought Friday was a good day, shooting a low one and making the cut, but to have a Sunday like that was special.
“Today was about enjoying golf again. I put no pressure on myself and even at eight or nine under, I was having fun. I was happy to be out there and it was a different type of mindset, no pressure.
“I didn’t think about my score, or what position we were in, about Open spots,” Johnson added. “I just tried to have fun out there and it was nice.”
Late triumph: Bernd Wiesberger won after a dramatic three-hole play-off