Scottish Open: Australian Min Woo Lee wins play-off in East Lothian
Just as it was really starting to heat up in the title battle in the final round of the $8 million Rolex Series event, the heavens opened and play was eventually halted for 90-minutes due to a threat of lightning.
By the time it got started again, most of the 4,000 spectators had headed home, leaving that play-off taking place in almost eerie silence.
It was won by Australian Min Woo Lee, who calmly rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole to beat Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick and Belgian Thomas Detry.
Lee, 22, set up his second European Tour win with a blistering run of six straight birdies on the front nine as he closed with a 64 to finish with an 18-under-par 266 total.
That was matched by Fitzpatrick and Detry as they signed for matching 67s, but it was Lee who came up with the defining moment in the shoot-out with a majestic approach at the 18th.
He is the first Australian to win this event since Wayne Riley claimed the title at Gleneagles in 1995, with Peter O’Malley (1992), Craig Parry (1991) and Graham Marsh (1973) also having their names on the trophy.
Earlier, Ian Poulter had set the clubhouse target after matching the best score of the week with a scintillating 63. The Englishman would have loved to have won this event, having been a big supporter over the years, but it wasn’t to be.
He finished a share of fourth spot with American Ryan Palmer (64) and Lucas Herbert (66) as the Australian completed a profitable two weeks after landing the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title seven days earlier.
Poulter, who had recorded six previous top-10s in this event, including a tie for sixth in the 2020 edition on the same course, had made his move by covering the first seven holes in four under before following a run of six straight pars were a strong finish.
He’d already birdied the 14th, 15th and 16th when his tee shot at the par-3 17th came to rest three feet beyond the hole. That opportunity went begging, unfortunately, but he made amends in style by coming up with another majestic iron shot and rolling in a five-footer.
“It was nice,” said Poulter of his day’s work alongside world No 3 Justin Thomas, who was equally pleased with his 65 to finish joint-eighth. “I mean, J.T. is a good guy to play with. He's always going to hit great golf shots.
“We both got off to a pretty decent start making a few birdies, and you know, we had lots of looks. That's what you hope for on a Sunday is to be in a position to run up the board, and we did just that.
“I got on a little bit of a run with a few holes to go. Hit some really nice, timely shots and holed a couple of nice putts. At 17, I had to hit my best 7-iron to get it there and the putt just wiggles a little left on me and doesn't drop.”
The effort saw him pick up valuable Ryder Cup points as he bids to be on Padraig Harrington’s team at Whistling Straits in September. “It's always nice being here playing good golf,” he added of building momentum heading into next week’s Open on home soil.
Palmer, who was among the Americans making debuts in the tournament, signed off with seven birdies in a bogey-free effort. “I've done that a lot in my career, saved my best for Sundays,” he said.
“There's something that gets inside of me when I'm close. I know I can shoot low on any day, but especially when it counts the most on Sunday.
“It's exciting to play well leading up into The Open, and I love where my game's at. I'm excited to get over there next week.”
Herbert was delighted with his performance alongside Rahm. “It would have been easy to be overwhelmed in the situation but felt really cool and calm,” he said.
Based on the last two weeks, he could be a dark horse at Royal St George’s, where Greg Norman claimed the Claret Jug in 1992.
“Obviously coming off some good form, so I think there's a lot of confidence to take,” added Herbert. “I haven't really processed it yet, but I think I've earned myself a wine or two tonight.”
Thomas started and finished with 65s. “It was solid,” said the American. “I didn't really get much out of the middle two days, which is what's going to end up costing me this tournament.
“But I played well. I showed some good signs. I've been working really hard trying to get back into contending every week I play and winning more tournaments. I've been working hard, so it's good to see some of the shots and results show that.”
Rahm, who had been lurking ominously at the start of the day, had to settle for a seventh spot. He opened with a bogey before reeling off four birdies in six holes from the fifth.
The rain delay, though, looked to take the sting out of the world No 1’s game at the wrong time. Eight pars to finish left him signing for 68 - his fourth sub-70 round of the week. On his Scottish Open debut, it was still a good warm up for next week.
Add to a splenidid day for the Australians, Wade Ormsby produced the event’s only hole-in-one, earning 204 bottles of whisky - one for each yard - for his ace at the 12th.
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