Australian Presidents Cup pact propels Scott to summit at Riviera
February 16, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Adam Scott claims 14th PGA TOUR win at Genesis
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Adam Scott watched fellow Australians and International Presidents Cup teammates Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman win on the PGA TOUR a few weeks back and got rankled. He was happy for his mates, but was irritated he wasn’t the one hoisting a trophy.
The Presidents Cup loss – where the Internationals were overtaken on Sunday by Tiger Woods and his U.S. team at Royal Melbourne last December – was one of great pain, yet great motivation for the Australians in the side. Having led into Singles for the first time since 2003, the trio felt the need to be spearheads that day. But of the three, only Smith won his match, as the 12-man team fell from a 10-8 lead to a 16-14 loss.
It burned. Having not won the Presidents Cup since 1998, it was an opportunity for greatness lost. But that night, quite a few commiseration drinks in, the three got to talking. They vowed to maintain the newfound team resolve Captain Ernie Els had instilled in the side for the next two years before the 2021 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow. They would be part of driving this team forward.
To do that, they would need to lift their personal efforts over the next two years. Scott had not won on the PGA TOUR in nearly four years. Smith had just one win – in a team event with Jonas Blixt at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2017. Leishman had been over a year removed since the fourth and last of his wins.
They told each other that despite playing well and being comfortable on the PGA TOUR, this level of mediocrity would no longer stand. As is the typical Australian way at times, they peppered their language with a few choice words and resolved to rid themselves of the excuses and just get after it. Essentially it boiled down to “no more BS." Now, they had the confidence to do it.
“I've seen it before with some guys off the back of an incredible Presidents Cup experience where there is pressure out on the golf course and guys really learning and elevating their games and then putting that into practice the next time they're in a pressure situation,” Scott said.
“I know I did that back in 2003, we played in December in South Africa and I remember leading THE PLAYERS going into Sunday (in 2004) but using that pressure situation playing with Ernie in South Africa as a way to know that I can handle it.”
Scott didn’t wait long to put it into practice. He claimed the Australian PGA Championship, a European Tour co-sanctioned event, the very next week – robbing Smith of a three-peat in the process. It was a much needed drought-breaker, but, of course, not the big scalp he craved. Despite feeling the high from the win, he shut his golf game down and moved into family mode. It was time to starve himself of competition to ensure he would return ready to go and not waste any weeks on the PGA TOUR.
As the 39-year-old played on Australian beaches with his young kids and hung out with elite tennis stars like Roger Federer, Smith and Leishman headed to Hawaii. Smith started the Sony Open four-over on his first two holes and remembered the chat - no more BS. Besides, he and Leishman had birdies to make for Australian bushfire relief. Four days later, he won in a playoff.
Scott saw it unfold and smiled. "Good on him," he thought. That Presidents Cup, where Smith came from three down against Justin Thomas to win his Singles match, could just be the start for him. It made Scott a little itchy, though.
Two weeks later, he flicked on the television for Sunday coverage of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and watched Leishman make a huge charge. Scott had been second there a year ago to Justin Rose but had stayed in Australia to continue his recharge. When Leishman won he was once again stoked, but now the competitive drive was really ramping up.
“Watching that… I was feeling like, okay, I'm starting to miss out being out there. So that was good to get those feelings… and I knew I would be definitely ready for a return soon,” Scott said. “Seeing Cam and Marc win was certainly motivation for me to come out and make sure I'm not the one lagging behind.”
And so, we come to this week, and Scott finally made his first 2020 appearance on the PGA TOUR at The Genesis Invitational. He won at Riviera Country Club in 2005, but it is deemed unofficial given the event was shortened to 36 holes and a playoff due to bad weather. He was runner-up two other times and seventh just a year ago.
On Thursday, he shot one over par to sit eight shots back. A convenient excuse of rust was there. But Scott also remembered - no more BS. On Friday, he promptly shot 64 to claw back in.
On Sunday, Scott started tied for the lead and birdied two of his opening three holes to go out in front alone. Then he missed a three-foot par putt on the fourth hole. He followed that up with a terrible double0bogey on the fifth and he no longer led the tournament. It was time to step up on the par-3 sixth and respond - "no more BS," he thought.
“He wasn’t rattled. He composed himself and I just said, 'let’s hit a golf shot,'” caddie John Limanti said. “It was a perfect 5-iron and he made a nice pass at it and stuck it behind the pin there, made a great downhill birdie putt and then that got us going in the right direction again.”
A run of six pars followed before a birdie on the 13th gave him a two-shot cushion on top. That was nixed on the 15th with a bogey, but once again it came with a “no more BS” moment. He had flared his approach from the fairway into a fried egg bunker lie. Then knifed his third over the green.
“It was in a horrible position then. I stood there and I wanted to maybe bump it into the fringe, but realistically it was going to be 45 feet past probably and I thought, well, you can maybe win the tournament if you hit a great flop shot here,” Scott said.
“So I thought I might as well just go for it. I had a little bit of that kind of mindset not just today but the whole week of not careless, but "what have I got to lose" kind of thing going, give myself a good chance to get back in the winner's circle on the PGA TOUR.”
He flopped it inside five feet, made his bogey and moved on. A critical wedge and 10-foot putt on the 17th pushed his lead to two again leaving him with a stress-free finish and a 14th official PGA TOUR win. He joined Bruce Crampton with the third-most wins by Australians on TOUR behind Greg Norman’s 20 and Jim Ferrier’s 18. Now, he has his sights on those numbers, despite coming up on his 40th birthday this July.
Adam Scott birdies No. 17 at Genesis
“Adam moves as good as some of the 22-year-old’s out here,” Limanti says. “As much as he's getting older, he takes such good care of his body. He can still turn and he’s still getting it out there with the longer players. His father and I were talking about it and think this is going to be the best year of his career. He's hungry.”
Scott keeps hearing about his upcoming milestone birthday, but intends to defy it. He remembers Vijay Singh having a significant pos- 40 run. The Fijian won 22 times on TOUR in his 40s, including a major.
“Everyone tells me I'm turning 40 this year, I don't know if they're insinuating that's kind of the beginning of the end,” said Scott, the 2013 Masters champion. “There's no doubt, the age of guys peaking is getting younger. There's far fewer dominant players in their 40s today than there was before.
“But I feel lucky, at the moment I'm very healthy as far as a golfing 39-year-old goes. I've got to make the most of that while I'm out here. It's only going to get harder probably. I hope I'm the exception to the rule and kind of play like Vijay (Singh) did in his 40s.
“I really do believe if I can maintain motivation and focus, the next five years can be my best years on TOUR. The big goal is to be a multiple major winner and I think the habit of winning is good for that. They're pretty lofty goals, so this is a good start but it's one week out of the next five years.”
How will he keep it going?
No more BS.
Adam Scott news conference after winning Genesis