I feel like this is a redux to the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, where everyone is likely watching the Oscars or having Sunday Fun Day and doesn’t really care about golf in February. Maybe? Maybe not? Okay, well, it wasn’t quite as exhilarating of a finish (or meltdown) as it was three Sundays ago, but it was a hard-fought, well-deserved victory by Adam Scott, who held off Sergio Garcia by a shot and posted a final-round even-par 70 to win for the first time since September 2014.
Playing once again in tough conditions, Scott put on a(nother) ballstriking clinic at PGA National and he didn’t putt so bad, either, making 17 of 18 putts inside of 10 feet on Sunday.
As he headed into the Bear Trap, Scott had a one-shot advantage over Garcia. A day earlier, he had been absolutely handling the difficult track at seven-under through 15 holes, but then disaster struck as he dumped two in the water and posted a quadruple-bogey seven on the par-3 15th. He managed to walk away still with a four-under 66 in the third round and tied for the 54-hole lead with Garcia.
Scott lined himself up, took a deep breath and stepped up to the ball on 15 late Sunday afternoon. How would he handle the scar tissue? The wind picked up. He backed off to reassess his club selection. After all, the last thing he wanted to do was to hit one in the water again, especially at such a crucial point in the tournament.
“I’d be lying if I said I just didn’t even think about yesterday but the tee went forward today and that was helpful because it wasn’t even close to the same kind of shot,” said Scott. “But they put the pin near the water, and you have to make a decision, are you going to hit a club that’s going to be ten or 12 yards long of the pin and leave yourself 45 feet; or, are you going to hit it left and be kind of pin-high.
“It’s a very tough shot to be cute with, and try and hit it a little soft cut under that that kind of pressure. Just as I stepped over it, the wind picked up too much for my liking with the 8, and last thing I needed to do was balloon it into the water again. I backed off and it dropped down straightaway, so I quickly went back in and hit while I felt it down, and I hit a pretty good shot.”
He safely made his par and then went to the par-4 16th, which of the three holes in the Bear Trap is probably the tamest. Scott pushed his drive right and didn’t really have a shot to the green. He couldn’t get up and down from eight feet and settled with a bogey. Luckily, Garcia hit some poor strikes and also dropped a stroke.
“I think the bogey didn’t really affect me too much because fortunately for me, Sergio also bogeyed 16,” said Scott. “We both made errors there.”
Scott entered the rowdy par-3 17th, needing to hit another good iron shot and avoid making a potentially costly mistake. His ball landed just on the green to the tucked pin and stopped about 20 feet from the hole. He two-putted conservatively for the par. Scott had some help from Garcia on the par-3 17th, as well, as Garcia three-putted from across the green to lose another shot. Which meant that Scott went safely into the 72nd hole with a comfortable two-shot lead on the reachable-in-two par-5 18th.
“So going to 17, you just know what to expect going to that tee,” said Scott, smiling. “On a Sunday afternoon or a Friday afternoon or a Saturday afternoon, it’s the same every time. There are a lot of people having a good time there and I’m happy for them.
“But it was a good time to hit another really good shot, like I did yesterday. That’s kind of what I was drawing on, my good shot yesterday, how many good shots I’ve hit this week. You absolutely have to block out all the nonsense, like you said, or whatever it’s called and get on with it. That was my time; after Sergio missed it left, if I hit the green, he was under a lot of pressure. That was a really good shot.”
Scott hit driver-9-iron to a nice wedge number that he knocked to inside 20 feet. Garcia pulled his second shot just short of the green in the left rough. His pitch was mediocre and left him with a 15-footer that he holed for birdie, which put *some* pressure on Scott to make a tap-in par.
“It was nice that it was just two feet, that’s for sure,” said Scott. “Yeah, that was certainly a sense of relief to win again, after being a year and a half I guess without a win. I think it’s just getting tougher and tougher to win out here.
“That was a great win today. It’s a very tough track. I think I made it look a little easier than it was for most of the part yesterday, and just did a good job of re-setting my expectations for today and not thinking I had to be 7-under through 15 to win today. Would have been nice, but it was just a tough day out there. It’s a tough course. It’s a tough finish.
“I felt a lot of putts didn’t go in today that could have, and had a few yardages that were in-between clubs and that just makes it hard to hit it near the pins when there’s so much trouble because it’s hard to recover from water around here. So there was a sense of relief but overall I’m thrilled with where my game’s at, and to get a victory is even more satisfying to just reassure me that I’m working on all the right things, going in the right direction this time of year.”
Sergio put in a strong effort considering he wasn’t striking the ball very well and scraped to even keep it close over the weekend.
“I hung in there as long as I could,” said Garcia. “The course was playing tough, different wind, which makes it very challenging. But you know, just a couple bad shots on a couple difficult holes, but Adam played great. I don’t want to take anything away from him. He played really, really solid. I played with him the last two days, and he looked awesome.
“I know I can play better, that’s the good thing. Without feeling like I was swinging that great, I still managed to have a chance, so I’m happy with that.”
This is Scott’s first victory in almost two years, but more important, it was his first since the anchoring ban went into effect at the start of 2016. If anything, it quiets any naysayers that have made strong declarations regarding Scott’s career once he could no longer use the broomstick putter.
“Probably good for everybody who likes talking about it, absolutely and therefore, good for me,” said Scott, laughing. “Therefore, good for me because maybe we don’t have to go over it too much anymore.
“Again, it just reassures me, I’m on the right track with the things I’m doing on the greens obviously and I’m just going to try and get better every week. And I think it’s in a great spot at the moment. If I can get better and better, then I like what’s to come.”
With Garcia at 36 years old and Scott at 35 (36 in July), the two former young rising stars have now become elder statesmen to the likes of those at the very top, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, but they reminded everyone that they still have game and can hold off the youngsters.
“I said I was desperate for the win yesterday and I was, because I was in this position,” said Scott. “You know, if I was sitting 36th yesterday, you’re not even talking about it.
“Getting back in the position was good, and I really wanted to win a lot, and also, I want to feel somewhat relevant still out here when it comes to being one of the best players in the world. That’s just down to my results. There’s no other way you can talk it in your head and try and build yourself up as much as you want, but at some point, you’re going to have to have the results to actually prove it and achieve.
“Last week and this week’s a great test of golf, and I like where things are at, and hopefully it’s a move in the right direction to be in that kind of top-10 players in the world.”
Scott is projected to move back into the top 10 at no. 9 in the latest world rankings.
More highlights from Scott’s wonderful presser:
*On his current grip with the conventional-length putter: “I can’t take the credit for this grip. Actually Brett Rumford, an Australian pro who plays in Europe showed me the grip, and felt good. So thank you, Brett.
“And I tried it when I putted with the short putter at Doral last year, and I putted quite nicely, generally, for the few weeks I tried putting with the short putter last year. It just felt right. Again, it’s not exactly the same as the grip with the long putter, but it’s very similar I guess in philosophy. Keeps all my ankles and technical things in good order, so feels really comfortable. Just feels normal to me now.”
*On having a share of the lead compared with the outright 54-hole lead: “I think being shared for the lead is probably better than one in front in all honesty. I slept a lot more comfortably last night than being just one in front. It’s not a nice spot, because you’re leading and you’re expected to win, but one shot over 18 holes around a golf course like this, or any one that we play on the PGA Tour, for that matter, is nothing. And there’s no level of comfort being one level in front.
“I think we see more and more guys struggle to close with the lead. Because it’s tough, and a guy with three back has no pressure. The difference between a birdie and a bogey a couple of times in a round is two shots, and that adds up to four on the card and there you go, there’s your three-shot lead gone.
“So I felt quite comfortable that Sergio and I were in front by a few, but co-leading, rather than probably being out in front. I think it’s harder when you are actually out in front to kind of get your expectations — it’s harder to think about losing when you’re leading, is what I’m trying to say.”
Great to see Justin Thomas with a strong T3 finish, which could have (and probably should have) been slightly better if it hadn’t been for that pesky par-3 17th, where he made double-bogey.
“It was a bummer,” said Thomas. “My miss the last three or four weeks has been high and right, and that’s not obviously an ideal shot for me. Yeah, I obviously didn’t hit a good one shot but it wasn’t as bad as where it went to. It kicked left on that downslope and from there, you really, for me, I felt like it was hard to even hit the green, so my one goal was just not to hit it in the water.
“Hit a good one chip from there and just didn’t hit a very good putt, so that was unfortunate. Felt like it wasn’t a very good way to end how I played today.”
Thomas, 22, was the only player to post four rounds in the 60s, which is *very* good on this golf course.
Wait, what happened to his invite to the Ryder Cup hopefuls gathering at Jack’s place again? The Americans are classically “over-coaching” and missing out on the actual stuff that matters — like not causing unnecessary tension or crap amongst the players to hinder actually forming a real camaraderie.