Adam Scott captured PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis honors in April for his playoff victory at the Masters, where he became the first Australian to win a Green Jacket. The Aussie got 58 percent of the vote, while Billy Horschel was second with just under 31 percent after a third, ninth and his first career win, which came in New Orleans. Graeme McDowell and Martin Laird finished third and fourth, respectively.
Send Scott your congratulations below.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The final pairing of Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia tees off at 2:40 p.m. on Saturday. Here's a closer look at each of them, plus who and what else to watch for this afternoon at TPC Sawgrass.
Webb Simpson (1:30 p.m. ET): The reigning U.S. Open champion seemed to turn the corner at Hilton Head, where he finished second after losing in a playoff. This week, he's third in fairways hit and enters Saturday five back.
Jason Dufner (1:30 p..m ET): He had six birdies and just one bogey in the second round and is one of the best ball-strikers in the game. He also finished sixth here two years ago.
Zach Johnson (1:50 p.m. ET): The last four finishes for Johnson here: T32, T22, T12, T2. See the trend? A couple late bogeys on Friday hurt, but Johnson is still in the mix four back.
Adam Scott (1:50 p.m. ET): Playing for the first time since his Masters victory, Scott is in position to go after his second PLAYERS title (he won here in 2004). He's just four shots back.
Hunter Mahan (2 p.m. ET): After struggling in his last few starts, Mahan has turned it around here, hitting 75 percent of his greens in regulation.
Matt Kuchar (2 p.m. ET): No player has ever won this tournament two years in a row. After a 66 Friday, Kuchar has a chance and enters the third round just four shots back.
Ryan Palmer (2:20 p.m. ET): The Texan is playing with a heavy heart after a longtime friend was killed in a car accident Thursday night. He's wearing the initials "CA" on his hat in honor of him.
Henrik Stenson (2:20 p.m. ET): The 2009 champion is in contention again after making two eagles in the second round (on the par-5 second and ninth holes). When he won here four years ago, he shot a final-round 66.
Lee Westwood (2:30 p.m. ET): The Englishman has finished fourth, fifth and sixth here. All that's missing is a win. He's the only player without a bogey through the first two rounds.
Tiger Woods (2:40 p.m. ET): It's been a dozen years since Woods has won here, but he said all facets of his game are clicking right now and it's showed so far with his best 36-hole start in his history here.
Sergio Garcia (2:40 p.m. ET): Like Woods, Garcia has won here before (in 2008), but he's struggled at times playing alongside the world No. 1 with five his last six rounds in the 70s when the two have been paired.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Robert Castro opened with a course record-tying 63 to take a three-shot lead on Thursday. Whether he still has that lead by the time he tees off Friday afternoon, who knows. Conditions appear to be good for scoring again and already a few players -- Tiger Woods among them -- have started to make a move. Here's a look at who and what to watch for this afternoon.
Roberto Castro (12:46 p.m. ET): A big reason Castro was able to go so low in the opening round was because he hit close -- six of his approach shots were inside 5 feet. That will be a tall order come the afternoon when the wind is expected to increase along with the temperature, making for a firm, fast golf course.
Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler (1:18 p.m. ET): After failing to break 70 in 16 of his last 17 rounds, which included a pair of missed cuts and two other finishes near the bottom of the leaderboard, Mahan was "stress free" with a 67 Thursday. Given his accuracy, he should fare well here (two years ago, he finished sixth). Fowler, on the other hand, struggled to a 73 and will have some ground to make up to make the cut.
Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell (1:28 p.m. ET): Both were 2 under on Thursday, and McDowell comes into this week having recently won at another Pete Dye course (Harbour Town).
Zach Johnson (1:49 p.m. ET): Perhaps lost in all the headlines Thursday was Johnson, who was superb with seven birdies and just one bogey. Johnson has played progressively better here the last three years, finishing 32nd, 22nd, 12th and second.
Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Adam Scott (1:49 p.m. ET): McIlroy finally broke par here with a sublime 66 in the opening round and he finally appears to be comfortable around this place. His last two wins have also come on Pete Dye courses. Stricker was nearly as good with a 67 and between the three the group made just two bogeys.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- It was golf’s version of H-O-R-S-E, and Rory McIlroy wouldn’t give up the tee box to Steve Stricker.
“Steve and I halved every hole for the first 11 holes,” McIlroy said. “We both birdied the exact same holes.”
They shot nearly identical scores, too -- McIlroy a 6-under 66 and Stricker a 67 in the opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
The third member of the group, 2004 PLAYERS champion, Adam Scott wasn’t too bad, either. He shot 69.
“I think when you get all three guys playing well in a group, you sort of feed off one another,” McIlroy said. “It was a good group to be a part of.”
It was a good round for McIlroy, too, beyond just the score.
In three previous trips here, McIlroy had never made the cut or broken par. Thursday, he made six birdies and no bogeys, turning in 31 after starting on the back nine.
If there was something that McIlroy, who just turned 24, learned in his previous appearances, it’s that he doesn’t need to hit driver often at TPC Sawgrass.
In the past, he would hit the big club on Nos. 2, 5, 7 and 9. And that was on just the front nine. “Maybe six or seven drivers last year,” McIlroy added.
Thursday, he didn’t any drivers on the front nine, and he hit just three overall (on Nos. 11, 14 and 16).
“There is no point,” he said. “The par‑5s on the front nine, for example, there is no point hitting driver off either one of those for me because I'm still going to reach the green with a 3‑wood off the tee if I want to.
“I'm playing nine as a three-shotter this week; I don't think I'll go for the green once. And the second hole I was still hitting iron in after hitting 3‑wood off the tee.”
The point McIlroy is making is that it is more important to keep his ball in the fairway.
“Once you do that,” he said. “The way I feel like I'm hitting my irons, I can take advantage of that.”
Everyone in the group did, too, with 16 birdies and just two bogeys between the three.
“I was a little surprised when I teed off that someone was 5 under already,” said Scott, playing for the first time since winning the Masters. “I thought it might play a little tougher than that. But it was ideal. There wasn't even a breath of wind hardly the front nine. The greens seemed pretty receptive, too, so if you were in the fairway you could attack.”
For McIlroy, a consistent swing has allowed him to do just that in recent weeks after struggling in the beginning of the season. In his last three starts, McIlroy has finished 10th, 25th and second.
“I'm definitely a lot more relaxed coming in here this year,” said McIlroy, who last two wins happen to come on Pete Dye-designed courses. “Whatever I do this week what I felt coming in is I'll do better than I ever have before. I feel like I've got the game to contend. I just wanted to go out and play well, and that's what I've done so far.”
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Adam Scott was 23 years old when he won THE PLAYERS Championship in 2004.
He thought the victory in the PGA TOUR's signature event would be a catalyst to success, and in many ways it was. Scott won five times in the next six years, including the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, which at the time attracted the top 30 money winners on TOUR and now does the same for those in the FedExCup standings.
But the talented Aussie didn't win his first World Golf Championships event until 2011 when he was 31 and his first major until last month's Masters. He has the benefit of experience now, and the man who squandered a four-stroke lead with four holes remaining at last year's British Open knows how hard winning really is.
"I think it definitely put the expectations up," Scott said of THE PLAYERS win. "But at that age and where I was at, it just all happened kind of easily, and you just expect it to keep happening. And I won other tournaments, but looking back on it I felt winning this tournament at that young age put me on a springboard to become one of the best players in the world and continue to win big tournaments.
"This is a very, very big tournament, and by that I mean World Golf (Championships) events and majors and THE PLAYERS, and it didn't happen. I won some TOUR events and other events around the world, but it didn't get me into a position where I was consistently performing well in big events. I think I know why now. I just wasn't structured enough back then, but that's young and it's all coming a bit too easy at that point, I think."
Scott found out it wasn't easy, though. He had a dismal stretch in 2009 when he missed the cut in nine of 12 starts, including six straight, before Greg Norman made him a controversial Captain's Pick for the Presidents Cup -- and the faith of Scott's idol helped turned his game around.
"It's a different game now," Scott said, reflecting on THE PLAYERS win. "There are so many guys with so much talent working so hard, and that's got to be the mantra for everyone out here, otherwise you're just not going to achieve. Back then your talent could show up on a week, like it did here at THE PLAYERS that year, and everything went my way.
"Now to give yourself the best chance you kind of have to have the steps in place to do that. That's what I see with the guys out here now, so talented and working so hard that you'd better be doing that or you're not going to compete."
Champions Tour rookie Steve Elkington, like many Australians, sweated out Adam Scott's win.
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By Mark Williams, Champions Tour staff
Champions Tour rookie Steve Elkington broke out one Australian icon to celebrate another following Adam Scott’s playoff victory over Argentina's Angel Cabrera at the Masters Tournament. Scott became the first Australian to win at Augusta National, which will surely elevate him to iconic status in his native land. After all, it’s not often the conclusion of a sporting event stops an entire nation, including its leader, Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“I opened a bottle of 1986 Grange Hermitage, one of the best bottles of all time,” said Elkington, himself a major champion at the 1995 PGA Championship. “I’d been saving it up for a special occasion.”
Asked if he shared it with anyone, Elkington said, “No. Just me, with a big steak. It’s a big shiraz red, one of the most famous bottles from Australia. Very sought after. It would be one of the great wines of the world.”
However, the result was in doubt until the playoff ended and it had Elkington on the edge of his seat before he could open the wine and savor it.
“Cabrera’s shot on 18, that to me was one of the greatest shots I’ve ever seen, and all of a sudden it looked like we (Australian’s) might not have the Masters,” Elkington said. “That drama, and Jim Nantz making it clear on the CBS coverage how strongly Australian’s thought about the elusive victory at Augusta National, and Adam referring to Greg (Norman) as a pioneer – it was all great.”
“I’ve known Adam for a long time and I didn’t think he would be able to come back from last year to be honest,” added Elkington, referring to Scott’s meltdown over the final four holes to lose the 2012 British Open to Ernie Els. “They say the average age of major winner is 32. Adam is 32. I was 32 when I won my major.”
According to Elkington the final piece of a giant jigsaw puzzle is now complete.
“An Australian hadn’t won the Masters, it was the only major missing for us, but Adam’s win almost completes a bigger ‘Slam.' Australians have won almost every event on almost every Tour – the World Cup, World Amateur Championship, the LPGA majors. It’s an incredible achievement for a small country.”
Elkington called his parents who live on the Gold Coast in Australia, not far from where Scott hails, to celebrate over the phone, but his Dad had already headed down to the local golf club to celebrate with friends, something most of Australia’s 22 million inhabitants likely did as well.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Ernie Els can't tell you what he said to good friend and newly minted Masters champion Adam Scott on Sunday night.
"We had quite a few beers, both of us," Els said with a huge smile. "You can imagine what we said. I couldn't say (what), not in proper English.
"He's very delighted, I can promise you, that he got a Green Jacket and I was delighted for him. It was quite a good conversation."
Nine months ago, it was a different conversation that shed light on just how close the South African and Australian are to one another.
"I really feel for my buddy, Scotty, I really do," Els said after watching Scott bogey the final four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to hand the claret jug to him. "I've been there before. I've blown majors before and golf tournaments before, and I just hope he doesn't take it as hard as I did."
Sunday, Scott became the first Australian to win the Green Jacket, beating Angel Cabrera, another good friend of Els', in a memorable playoff.
"Everyone is so happy that Scotty won," said Jason Day, who was in contention as well until bogeying two of his final three holes. "It's hard to not be happy for the guy because he's so nice."
Day and Scott traded texts that night.
"He texted me and said, 'I know you're disappointed, but you showed a lot of class,'" Day said. "I texted him back and said, 'I'm glad it was you to be the first. It goes down in history forever, mate.' Being the first Australian to win the Masters does go down in history, and that's got to feel good for him."
It also felt good for Els, who made a trip to Augusta National with Scott two weeks prior to the tournament. The two also played two practice rounds together, along with Louis Oosthuizen, with Scott getting in Els' pocket.
"But being the veteran I am, I made quite a bit of money the second day back from them," Els said. "So we almost came out square."
Games aside, Els could see how well Scott was hitting the ball. He also noticed a quiet confidence in the Aussie.
"I've made a point of really getting on him a little bit, you know, and keeping him going forward," Els said. "We played a lot of golf and talked quite a bit. He really was motivated for it.
"He definitely was striking the ball really well. He was in a very nice, loose, mood. He wasn't too tight. I really felt he was going to play well."
Jason Day had a rare birdie-eagle start to his final round at the Masters (How/Getty Images)
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
The first major championship of the season produced plenty of thrills and spills. Adam Scott is the Masters champion after he knocked off Angel Cabrera on the second playoff hole. But it was his play on the final 13 holes in regulation at Augusta National that lifted him to victory. For more on Scott's win and this week's RBC Heritage, let's go Inside the Numbers ...
10 under Scott’s score on Nos. 6 through 18 for the week at the Masters. … Point to plenty of things for Scott’s major breakthrough -- clutch putting and ball-striking, to name a few -- but this stat is about as good as it gets. Scott played this stretch brilliantly, carding 11 birdies and just one bogey for the week. Since 1990, no other golfer has played the final 13 holes in each round of the Masters with one or fewer bogeys through four rounds, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
10th According to Elias, Jason Day became the 10th player since 1990 to open any round at the Masters birdie-eagle. … Day opened his final round 3-3 before bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 ultimately ruined his chances of joining a playoff with Scott and Angel Cabrera. Three other players opened 3 under in the final round: Mark O'Meara (2001), Mark Calcavecchia (2007) and Louis Oosthuizen (2012).
13 Shot differential between Ryan Moore’s third and fourth round at the Masters. … Moore posted an 81 on Saturday but rebounded with a 4-under 68 to finish T38. According to Elias, in the last 10 years at the Masters, only two other players made at 13-shot improvement from one round to the next: Charles Coody and Mark Hensby in 2006.
No. 18 The scenic, 472-yard 18th hole at Harbour Town, home to this week’s RBC Heritage, ranked as the 18th most-difficult closing hole on the PGA TOUR last season. … With light winds last year, the hole played quite easy compared to past seasons at .179 strokes over par. The hole has averaged over par for the tournament every year since 1997.
76.67 percent Scrambling percentage at the Masters for Lee Westwood, who ranked first in that category, saving 23 of 30 shots. … The move to South Florida continues to pay off for the Englishman. Quite frankly, his short game turnaround in 2013 is remarkable. Last season, Westwood ranked 191st in scrambling at 48.30 percent. This season, he ranks seventh on TOUR at 67.24 percent. Still, Westwood has just three top 10s in eight events. The culprit? ...
T109 Rank in 2013 for Westwood in greens in regulation at 65.48 percent. … Yes, this is a major surprise and likely the reason that Westwood hasn’t enjoyed a monster season thus far. Last year, Westwood was third in greens at 69.75 percent and he’s known as one of the better ball-strikers on TOUR. Westwood has also struggled with his putter, ranking 127th in strokes gained-putting, an area that has always been his nemesis.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
Week 10: WGC-Cadillac/Tampa Bay Championship
Week 12: Shell Houston Open
Week 13: Valero Texas Open
Week 14: The Masters
Scott's Masters win was still being talked about Tuesday at Harbour Town. (How/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Australian Stuart Appleby still remembers the first time he met Adam Scott.
Scott, 15 years old at the time, was playing in a junior event run by Greg Norman. Another Australian, Aaron Baddeley, was 3 under and finished second to Scott -- 15 strokes behind him.
“I had no idea who (Scott) was,” recalled Appleby as he stood on the range at Harbour Town Golf Links for this week’s RBC Heritage. “I’m like, ‘What the (expeletive) is going on? So what’s this kid’s name?’ Ten years later he was a world-class player.”
And the first Masters champion from Down Under.
Eight times Australians had finished second at Augusta National, three times by Norman. Now the sporting nation with a population of just 22 million, had its first Green Jacket.
“In 1996, I think all of Australia went into mourning when (Norman) didn’t win,” Baddeley said. “because everyone thought he was going to win.”
Appleby called it the biggest injection of golf excitement in Australia since the 1990s, when Norman was No. 1 in the world for six straight years.
“It’s been very quiet since; sounds of crickets compared to Greg brought to the game for a while,” Appleby said. “All of us could say we had our initial roots of love for the game through Greg.”
Now Appleby hopes Scott will have the same impact.
So far, he’s off to a good start.
Just how big was Scott's win to Australia? The Prime Minister’s national address was interrupted on Monday with the news that Scott had won the Masters.
“With what Adam did, I reckon we could get that,” Appleby continued. “He’s got a Hall-of-Fame career in front of him, he’s a world-class player, he’s a gentleman, a great guy and he’s handsome damn it.
“I would love to see if we could measure golf’s participation; if there’s a bit of kick, a bit of interest, a bit of ‘Mum, I want to go to the range.’”
Appleby added that Australia has “struggled to make golf work” economically in recent years and noted that prize money in Australian events has dropped, too.
“This is just what we needed,” he said. “I’d hate to put undue pressure on Adam, but I hope he can represent golf in Australia for many years to come.”
Whatever happens, Appleby is just happy for his fellow Aussie.
“I’m hugely proud it was his first and Australia’s first,” Appleby said. “I woke up the next morning and it was first thing I was thinking about. Good on him, that’s all we can say.”