THE boy named Shinkwin seemed destined for a shock win. In the end, though, it was a case of Spanish Ayes in the home of golf.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello, with the kind of charge a matador faces when teasing a rampaging bull, came barging up the field on the final day of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links and would eventually triumph at the first play-off hole in the long shadows of a lovely Ayrshire evening.
A swashbuckling, course-record eight-under 64, for a 13-under 275 gave Cabrera-Bello a fighting chance of earning a third European Tour win and a first since 2012.
It was Callum Shinkwin’s to lose, however, and the timing of his only dropped shot of the day could not have been worse.
Leading by one standing on the 18th tee, a par on the closing hole would have given the 24-year-old from Watford a first tour triumph and a mind-boggling cheque for almost £900,000.
On the tempting par-5 closing hole, and given his situation, caution perhaps should have been the watchword.
A lay-up, a dunt on to the green and a couple of putts? Hardly a grandstand finish but safe, solid and highly effective.
Instead, the former junior boxer went for the knock-out blow and left himself shoogling on the ropes. His approach came to rest in a dicey lie on the slope behind the greenside bunker.
“I thought I hit a great second shot in and finished in a divot on a downslope, I had no shot, really,” he reflected.
After much dithering and deliberating, Shinkwin’s dink to the putting surface rolled back off it. A timorous putt then came to rest about five-feet from the hole.
It was agonising stuff but he still had that one to stumble his way over the finishing line. Perhaps inevitably, his putt for par came up short and he would have to do it all over again down the 18th in the sudden-death shoot-out.
With a bamboozling sense of déjà vu, Shinkwin clattered his second shot into a similar position behind the sand trap.
Cabrera-Bello, with the calm, calculated precision of a lurking assassin, hit the target. A superbly flighted 3-wood from some 270 yards rolled to within 15-feet to set up what would be a two-putt birdie.
Shinkwin, meanwhile, had nudged his third shot to about seven-feet but another tentative putt sat on the edge and the Scottish crown belonged to Cabrera-Bello.
The consolation for Shinkwin was a cheque for almost £600,000 and a place in this week’s Open Championship. Every cloud and all that.
“I played some of the best golf of my life in that final round and that 3-wood in the play-off qualifies as one of the best shots of my life,” said a jubilant Cabrera-Bello, who was afforded a decent chunk of good fortune from those golfing gods during regulation play when his second shot to the 18th hit one side of the burn and bounced safely over to the other side.
“In the play-off, I just went for it. These are the moments you practice for. I enjoy these pressurised moments. These are what define you.
“I feel a bit for Callum. Obviously it was in his hands and it must have been frustrating for him as I felt he got unlucky with his ball not rolling back to the bunker. Otherwise it would be him sitting here, not me.”
Dundonald and its surrounds looked delightful yesterday as that smouldering orb up in the heavens made a welcome appearance.
It was a stark contrast to the scenes which greeted the een on Saturday as the wind raged and the rain came lashing down in thunderous torrents.
At times during a thoroughly dismal third round of play, you half expected the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to come charging over Goat Fell wielding 5-irons.
Sunday, though, was more like something resembling a summer and many set out to make hay while that lesser spotted fiery thing shone.
Of course, for some it was too little too late. Padraig Harrington, who had been leading at the halfway stage, saw his title ambitions rent asunder with a 79 in round three but he came bounding back up the order with a closing 66 for an eight-under total which left the double Open champion in a share of fourth.
Shinkwin, meanwhile, hadn’t put a foot wrong all day. While Ian Poulter and Andrew Dodt, who joined him in a leading triumvirate after 54 holes, slithered out of the running and eventually finished tied ninth and tied fourth respectively, Shinkwin looked seemingly unflappable as he assumed command with a composed, considered display of front-running golf
A trio of birdies at the eighth, ninth and 10th bolstered his position of authority and further gains at the 13th and 15th helped to fend off Cabrera-Bello’s menacing advances. It would all unravel for Shinkwin on the last, though.
With his Spanish countrymen, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, grabbing much of the attention recently, Cabrera-Bello served a timely notice of intent ahead of the Open.
Royal Birkdale, here we come.