It’s the shot Adam Scott believes won him the Genesis Invitational yet it was only 18 months ago that he didn’t have the courage to play it when it mattered most.
His long-range putt at the third hole, draining a birdie putt from 12 feet at 13 and his up-and-down to earn a two-shot buffer at the penultimate hole will all dominate the highlight reels of Scott’s 14th PGA TOUR title yet it was a flop shot that helped the Queenslander to make birdie that signified a major mindset shift.
Winner of the Australian PGA Championship in December, Scott was nearing four years without a win on the PGA TOUR before claiming the trophy for a second time at Riviera Country Club, his first an unofficial win in 2005.
Treading water on the back nine as much of the field fell backwards, Scott pulled his approach shot into the par-4 15th hole left into the bunker and was left with a lie that sends club golfers into conniptions.
Scott himself described the ball as being “plugged” and when he – in his words – “knifed” his third shot from the sand into the deep rough behind the green, he was staring down the barrel of a second Sunday double-bogey.
His first instinct was to try and pitch a shot into the fringe and hope for a 45-foot putt coming back for bogey but instead he channelled his inner Phil Mickelson, opened his lob wedge and let fly.
Known more for the simplicity and beauty of his metronomic golf swing, creativity around the greens has never been a Scott strong point. But as he took pride in the execution of a crucial up-and-down in the heat of battle, revealed the origins of adding such a shot to his repertoire with coach Brad Malone.
“The shot that stood out was deciding to flop the second chip on 15,” said Scott, projected to move up to No.7 in the Official World Golf Rankings as a result of his victory, the third by an Aussie on the PGA TOUR this year.
“About 18 months ago I was fooling around a little bit doing some silly stuff by the green and my coach said, ‘Look, as silly as that might feel and you’re messing around, it actually looks like it’s in a really good position to hit shots from. Just keep fooling around.’
“And that’s kind of evolved into what I’m doing now.
“It’s not very technical at all, it’s just a feeling in my right arm and that was it. It was great last year and my confidence has gone up because I’ve performed better with it.
“I stood there and I wanted to maybe bump it into the fringe, but realistically it was going to be 45 feet past. I thought, Well, you can maybe win the tournament if you hit a great flop shot here, so I thought I might as well just go for it.”
As he nears his 40th birthday in July, winning tournaments – particularly majors – has become Scott’s primary focus.
He is the type of personality who likes certainty and control so the idea of a full swing from just off the green has been something of a misnomer to him.
But as the talent pool in world golf grows deeper and deeper the greatest rewards require a certain level of risk, Scott cognisant of the need to maintain his personality type while being daring enough to play the shots that define tournament victories.
“As I chat about my feelings when I play with my coach, we often talk about just letting go a little bit,” said Scott, who will be among the Aussies teeing it up at the WGC-Mexico Championship this week.
“At times I feel like I’m too loose on some shots, but then there are other moments where I play a little too conservative all the time.
“It’s a fine balance. My first thought was bump it in, it’s safe but I’ll probably make a double (bogey).
“Then I thought, I really want to win this and maybe this shot can do it. I hit a really great shot. It was quite fun.
“I had a little bit of that kind of mindset not just today but the whole week. 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.”