America’s Matt Kuchar claimed the first Hero Challenge title of 2018 against the spectacular backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
The European Tour’s fast and fun night golf event pitted six of the stars of this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investment’s Scottish Open against each other in the target golf contest at the world-famous visitor attraction.
A vocal crowd of more than 4000 fans created an electric atmosphere at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’s extraordinary amphitheatre in front of Edinburgh Castle - a key part of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site – as Kuchar defeated countryman Charley Hoffman in the final.
The unique event - which was broadcast live on Sky Sports and attracted over 500,000 viewers to the official live stream on Twitter - kicked off with two groups of three players taking aim from a specially built platform at a target 80 metres away on the castle esplanade.
Defending Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open champion Rafa Cabrera Bello and English Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter saw off the challenge of rising Indian star Shubhankar Sharma, and despite the backing of the passionate home support, Scotland’s Richie Ramsay also exited at the group stage as Hoffman and Kuchar set up semi-final clashes with Cabrera Bello and Poulter respectively.
There were signs of what was to come as Kuchar defeated Poulter with the help of the first bullseye of the night in the second semi-final. He then repeated the feat in the final in an impressive display of accuracy - even having enough of a points cushion to hand his final ball of the night to host Vernon Kay and take to the mic as the two swapped roles.
Kuchar said: “It is just an amazing venue, what a cool backdrop. The amount of fans and the energy that was here tonight just made it really exciting to be part of this event.
“I think there was some luck involved in the bullseyes. I’m surprised it went my way as much as it did. It was the luck of the bounce a little bit but I certainly had the distance and direction looking good.
“Getting a bit of the luck of the bounce was awfully nice to end it with a bullseye there at the end. I’m looking forward to taking this Hero Challenge trophy home – my kids will love it!”
A successful debut for the Hero Challenge at the British Masters supported by Sky Sports in 2016 was followed by three thrilling editions last year at the British Masters, Scottish Open and DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, as Hero MotoCorp Ltd - the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters - reaffirmed its commitment to innovation on the European Tour.
In 2018 the drama of the night golf contest will be increased further as a series of iconic city locations perform hosting duties, following tonight’s spectacular event at Edinburgh Castle.The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open once again takes its place as part of the Rolex Series – the premium category of tournaments on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, each with a minimum prize fund of US$7million. Some of the world’s best golfers will tee it up in Gullane from July 12-15, including defending champion Cabrera Bello of Spain, 2015 champion Rickie Fowler, five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson and World Number Three and 2014 winner Justin Rose. Fans can buy tickets from just £15 at www.asiscottishopen.com