E very cloud has a silver lining, and after all the turmoil caused by the appalling weekend weather, the bedraggled organisers of the Barclays Scottish Open at a sodden Castle Stuart could at least kick back last night with a stiff dram and toast the best winner they could have hoped for.
With the tournament reduced to 54 holes following Saturday’s ferocious deluge, which wiped out any action, Luke Donald, the world No.1, strode majestically to the £500,000 first prize as he closed with a nine-under 63 for a 19-under aggregate of 197 and a four-stroke victory over Sweden’s Fredrick Andersson-Hed, who roared up 42 places with a sparkling 62.
There was even a bit of Scottish success to raise a glass to on an eventful concluding Sunday. While Colin Montgomerie’s bid for a 22nd Open appearance petered out, Glasgow’s Scott Jamieson ensured he will make his major debut at Royal St George’s this week when he bravely holed a 10-footer to birdie his final hole in a 69 for a 14-under 202 to form a seven-way tie for third place.
The leading player who finished in the top five who was not already exempt for the Open would be handed the golden ticket and it was Jamieson, on the basis of his higher world ranking, who snatched the prize.
After the calamitous scenes of the weekend, and further predictions of fearsome downpours and thunder storms yesterday, Mother Nature finally gave the Moray Firth a break as play went on unhindered.
Donald, sporting a pair of tartan troosers to highlight his Scottish connections, put together a dominant, composed performance and took advantage of the softened-up greens as he plundered his third European Tour win of the season and the first of his reign at the head of the global pecking order.
While Lee Westwood, his nearest rival in the world rankings, could only muster a share of 14th, the win extended Donald’s advantage over his countryman at the top of the tree.
As far as a warm-up for an assault on the Claret Jug and a first major goes, this was the ideal tonic. “This is perfect preparation,” said Donald. “It doesn’t get any better than going out and winning the week before. I’m going to be high on confidence. I see this as all positive.”
With Jamieson and his fellow Scot Peter Whiteford sharing the lead, with the former US Open champion Graeme McDowell on 11-under -- the trio having completed their second rounds as scheduled on Friday evening -- Donald, whose father was born in Stranraer, was one of a host of players who had to return at the crack of dawn yesterday to play catch-up.
Sitting at seven-under par with nine holes of his uncompleted round to go, he hauled himself menacingly into contention with a 67 to finish just a stroke off the pace heading into the closing round.
As the afternoon action played out, Montgomerie, desperate to earn the top-five finish that could have preserved his proud run of Open appearances, made a telling thrust early on and after a monstrous eagle putt on the second he almost chipped in for another on the long sixth.
After that significant charge, the eight-time European No.1 was briefly sitting at the top of the leaderboard, but a double-bogey five on the 11th, followed by back-to-back dropped shots at 13 and 14, scuppered both his title and Open ambitions.
As lesser-known names such as Lorenzo Gagli, Martin Wiegele, Mark Tullo and Robert Coles eased themselves into the hunt and threatened to upstage the big guns, Donald stamped his authority on affairs.
He reeled off four consecutive birdies at three, four, five and six before making a further gain at nine to turn in a purposeful 31. Four more birdies on the inward half, including three in his last four holes, set the seal on a commanding display.
Having tied for fifth in the Scottish event in 2005, shared second in 2006 and finished fourth in 2007, last night’s triumph was a particularly sweet moment. “My dad was born in Scotland, mind you he only lived there for two years,” he added. “But I certainly think my dad is very proud of being Scottish and his heritage. All that certainly adds to this victory.”
As Donald marched to the title, Andersson-Hed conjured the lowest round of the championship as he came hurtling up the standings with his 10-under 62.
The former Italian Open champion, 39, covered his front nine in a dazzling six-under 30 and completed a superbly assembled round with an eagle three on the last which handed him a tidy cheque for £333,330. “I’ve never shot a 62 in a competition before so that was fantastic,” said the Swede.
Angel Cabrera, the former Masters and US Open champion, joined the seven-strong posse in third, while triple major-winner Padraig Harrington marked his first Scottish Open in 12 years with a share of 14th along with Retief Goosen.
Ernie Els, the 2002 Open champion, tied for 25th while McDowell, the 2008 Scottish champion, was right in contention until a crippling nine at the 12th saw him slither out of the picture with a 74 and a share of 42nd. Edoardo Molinari, the defending champion, also finished down the order on 208 after a 72.