Schauffele has a 2-shot Scottish lead and is looking for a 2nd straight win

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland (AP) — Xander Schauffele played all the right rebounds and hit all the key putts until the final two holes on Saturday of the Scottish Open, then felt compelled to settle for a advance two moves.

Just as he was starting to slip away from the field, Schauffele closed with a pair of bogeys at the Renaissance Club, which made it difficult to appreciate an otherwise stellar round. He matched the low score on the windy day with a 4 under 66.

And then he headed straight for the firing range.

“I pretty much had everything going,” Schauffele said. “I judged the rebounds well and made the putts I needed and went up and down when I missed the green. Six birdies out of 16, nothing to complain about. And a tough finish.

Schauffele was 7 under 203, two ahead of Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, who had a 67 and bolstered his hopes of securing one of three spots for the British Open next week in St. Andrews.

Jordan Spieth had two eagles on the back nine, one of them with a lob corner just over 100 yards on the 15th hole, and had a 66 that put him right in the mix. Spieth was three strokes behind in a field that included fellow Texasman Ryan Palmer.

Cameron Tringale has been sliding since starting with a 61 in relatively mild conditions along the Firth of Forth. He went from a three-stroke lead to a five-stroke deficit. Tringale had an eagle on the third hole and nothing but pars and bogeys the rest of the way for a 74.

Schauffele has been harassed for the longest time for not having his own PGA Tour title since the start of 2019. He won an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo last summer, and he partnered with Patrick Cantlay to win the PGA Tour team event in New Orleans.

Now the 28-year-old Californian could hit his stride. He is coming off a victory two weeks ago in the Travelers Championship, with an eye on the final major of the year at the Old Course in St. Andrews.

“You see players doing it all the time. You get into the right rhythm of things, start to feel comfortable seeing certain shots and seeing certain putts come in,” Schauffele said. “The players always have good stretches and I try to make it one of my best.”

He was ahead by no less than four strokes until he fired his tee shot on the par-3 17th and rolled over a ridge and out of the green. On the tough windward closing hole, he drove his tee shot into the rough, went behind a pair of bunkers and missed a 10-foot putt.

Schauele still found some perspective. He thought he was in deep trouble on the 11th hole when his tee shot sailed well to the right towards knee-high native grass. Fearing it was lost, he bumped into another. The original shot was found and he ended up birdie.

“I hit a provisional tee shot at 11 and birdied it. It doesn’t happen too often,” he said.

Cabrera Bello, the former Spanish Ryder Cup player who fell to No. 159 in the world, is well aware that three top-10 players who are not already exempt for the British Open will earn a trip to St. Andrews. He’s close enough to Schauffele to think about winning, which he’s only done once in the past five years.

Cabrera Bello started the eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie back nine that turned his fortunes and put him in the final group on Sunday.

Palmer is also in a position to struggle and at least make it to St. Andrews. It was worth flying to Scotland to try and compete in the British Open.

“It hasn’t been a good year, but I knew if I played well and gave myself a chance to get one of those three spots,” Palmer said. “So I did that. I am here. And you know, I’m going to go out and try to win this golf tournament.

There are people at the top if Schauffele weakens. Spieth was joined at 4-under 206 by England’s Palmer and Jordan Smith, with US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick in group five behind.

As for the three British Open spots, Rickie Fowler stayed within reach after a wild finish. He erased a double bogey on the 14th hole with a birdie-eagle, then bogeyed the last two. That gave him a 71. He was six shots behind.

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