Rickie Fowler set his sights on a first major title after producing his second brilliant finish of the season to win the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
Fowler fell two shots off the lead when he bogeyed the 14th hole of the final round at Gullane, but responded with birdies at the 15th, 16th and 18th to finish 12 under par and snatch victory from Ryder Cup team-mate Matt Kuchar.
That brought back memories of Fowler’s victory in the Players Championship at Sawgrass in May, when he played the last six holes in six under, taking a tournament-record 11 shots to finish birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie.
Fowler, who finished in the top five of all four majors last year, then defeated Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia in a play-off, just days after he and Ian Poulter were voted the most overrated players by their peers in an anonymous survey conducted by Sports Illustrated.
Graeme McDowell, who was in contention after two days with successive rounds of 66, slipped away over the weekend and eventually finished alongside Ireland’s Shane Lowry in a share of 31st on five under par.
Three-time major champion, Padraig Harrington, finished the event on two under par while Michael Hoey closed his tournament with a seven over par 77 to finish in a share of 77th.
Fowler will now hope to emulate the last American to win the Scottish Open in 2013, Phil Mickelson tasting victory at Castle Stuart before going on to win the Open at Muirfield, just a mile down the road from Gullane.
“Phil made sure I was well aware of what he did two years ago when I saw him this morning,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’ve got the first leg done and although it will be difficult to better my Open finish last year being runner-up with Sergio (Garcia), I like my chances.”
Kuchar had set the clubhouse target on 11 under, finally ending the hopes of Scotland’s Marc Warren who had finished 10 under par four hours earlier after a superb 64.
Fowler faced an uphill task after driving into a fairway bunker cost him a shot on the 14th, but holed from nine feet on the next, two-putted the par-five 16th and then hit a superb approach from 109 yards to two feet on the last.
That left France’s Raphael Jacquelin needing to hole his second shot to the 18th to force a play-off and his approach span back to within inches of the hole, but Fowler was not to be denied.
“It’s pretty special,” Fowler added. “This is a big win. I had a couple of missed cuts after winning the Players, which was disappointing, so it feels good to get back on form. I could definitely get used to winning a little more often.
“Jordan (Spieth) has been playing some incredible golf and it’s fun to see and inspirational too. I have a lot of work to do but this is a step in the right direction and down the road there could be some good talk about Jordan, Rory (McIlroy) and me.
“I had to dig deep. I was a little bummed to drop a shot on 14 but knew I had some birdie holes coming in. With a par four, par five, par three and par four to finish, it was a very similar set up to Sawgrass.
“I can’t say I didn’t make a mistake all week and there are a few things we can tighten up, but I am looking forward to getting back to St Andrews, the Home of Golf, and getting into contention.”