The season’s second Hero Challenge, being played ahead of the Scottish Open 2019, enthralled audiences with a nail-biting finish at The Renaissance Club here in North Berwick near Edinburgh on Tuesday evening.
Matt Fitzpatrick of England emerged victorious ahead of Matt Kuchar of the US, who came within a whisker of becoming the first player to win The Hero Challenge twice. Matt Fitzpatrick (24) won the trophy in a shoot-out decided by ‘nearest to the pin’ in the final.
Fitzpatrick was presented the winner’s trophy by Dr.PawanMunjal, Chairman, Hero MotoCorp Ltd – the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters.
It was an exciting contest with both the semi-finals and the final being decided by sudden-death shootouts at the event held ahead of the 2019 Scottish Open that starts on Thursday.
The six players were divided into two groups, with the top two from each group moving into the semi-finals. At this stage, the competition became a knock-out held on a specially-constructed tee at the par-three 15th hole.
Kuchar, who was defending the title, fought back twice – first in the league stage where his seventh and eight hits produced 50 points each and then when he won a shoot-out in the semi-finals to make the final. He almost repeated the feat in the final.
The sizeable crowd that filled up the stands despite it being a wet Tuesday, got the respite from the weather gods, as incessant rain halted at the official start of the competition. The competition which was telecast live, proved to be a perfect outing for the large number of youngsters who attended the star-studded event.
Justin Thomas was the first player to go out as Fitzpatrick and Lucas Bjerregaard moved into the semis as the top two from their group. From the other group, Kuchar and debutant Graeme McDowell moved into the last four and Tyrell Hatton was eliminated.
In the first semi-final, Fitzpatrick and McDowell were tied on points but the former moved ahead on the basis of ‘nearest to the pin’ on the extra shot. From the other semi-final, Kuchar hung in against Bjerregaard who had stunned Tiger Woods at the WGC-Matchplay and looked all set to scalp the defending champion. Kuchar won the tie-break eventually to move ahead.
The final, too, went into a tie-break shoot-out, where Fitzpatrick, playing his second Hero Challenge, was a shade more accurate in getting his ball closer to the pin to emerge new champion.
It was a perfect start at the Scottish Open for Fitzpatrick, who became the ninth different winner in nine editions of the Hero Challenge.
“It was good fun out there, I had to do it the hard way,”said Fitzpatrick. “It was great to get the win, it suits me having to hit low shots. Matt (Kuchar) is a great player, obviously, he won the Hero Challenge last year, but he’s a proper golfer. The whole evening was really good fun. It was nice to go out there on a Tuesday night and get the crowd fired up for the week ahead.”
Hero MotoCorp Ltd – the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer – introduced the Hero Challenge at the British Masters in 2016. The Company reaffirmed its commitment to innovation on the European Tour by extending the Hero Challenge by another three years and to three marquee events – the British Masters, Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.