Korea’s Byeong Hun An finished an impressive tied third at the Genesis Scottish Open on Sunday to earn a prized spot at The Open Championship, the year’s final major, next week.
The 31-year-old An, who was the first round leader, ground out an even par 70 on a wind-swept final round at Renaissance Golf Club in North Berwick to finish five strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy.
The Northern Irishman pipped local hero Robert Macintyre in the co-sanctioned US$9 million PGA TOUR and DP World Tour tournament by a single stroke after closing with two stunning birdies for a 68 and a winning total of 15-under 265. Macintyre posted a superb 64 for his career best finish on the PGA TOUR.
Another Korean, Tom Kim, started the day one back McIlroy, the third round leader, and briefly held the lead on the front nine before his day unravelled as he closed with a disappointing 73 and finished in a share of sixth place. It was his second top-10 in Scotland following a solo third last year.
For An, a third top-10 of the season in the home of golf meant re-routing his journey to Royal Liverpool in England for The Open, and also organising his laundry to be ready for next week.
“As soon as I get back, I have to do my laundry and get ready,” smiled An. “At least I have a lot of warm clothes.”
“The Open wasn't on my schedule but after the last couple days, all I tried to do is play a little better. Struggled a little bit off the tee, tee-to-green the last couple weeks but I'm glad to see that tee-to-green was great this week I feel like my swing was back on track. It was a little off the past couple weeks but it's good to see my swing is back on track. Yeah, this is a bonus, extra week, so hopefully I can make the best out of it.”
An, who has won once on the DP World Tour but is still seeking a first PGA TOUR victory, traded four birdies against as many bogeys under tough conditions as he virtually sealed his place in the FedExCup Playoffs next month after starting the week in 58th position. It will also be his ninth appearance at The Open and a second trip to Royal Liverpool where he finished T26 in 2014, the year McIlroy was victorious for one of his four career majors.
“That (2014) was my first time at The Open as a pro. I remember the place. It's a great golf course. That was my first major cut I think that I made. So I'm looking forward to it and hopefully can have a little better finish this year,” said An.
“This was good preparation. The Open wasn't in my mind but after all of this, it was good preparation playing the links course the week before and the jet-lag everything and, and going to FedEx, I guess I've been playing decent golf this year. Hopefully I can keep this up and play a little better.”
Trailing by one with two holes remaining and with MacIntyre in the clubhouse at 14-under, McIlroy, the reigning FedExCup champion, produced two brilliant shots for birdies from about four and 11 feet to secure his 24th PGA TOUR win and 16th DP World Tour title.
“Really proud. That was such a tough day, so tough, especially the back nine. I bogeyed my last two holes on the front nine to go to 2-over and I saw Tyrrell (Hatton) was making a run. Obviously Bob was making a run as well and had an unbelievable finish.
“To play that back nine 4-under par to win the tournament, yeah, really proud of how I just stuck in there. Hit some amazing shots down the stretch and was able to finish it off with a really nice putt there (on 18). It feels incredible. It's been a sort of long six months I feel since I won in Dubai. I've given myself tons of chances, and hopefully this win sort of breaks the seal for me, especially going into next week (The Open) as well,” said McIlroy, who rises to World No. 2 after the win.