Adam Scott has Augusta on his mind after staving off a host of challengers – and plundering a timely eagle at 15 – to claim his second Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort on Sunday.
Beginning the final round with a one-shot buffer and world ranking position stacked heavily in his favour, Scott flexed his muscle early with a kick-in birdie at the opening hole but took a further 14 holes before delivering the knockout blow.
When he found the water with an iron from the tee at the 268-metre par-4 eighth, Scott fell back into a four-way tie at 10-under with playing partners Nick Flanagan, Wade Ormsby and Kiwi Michael Hendry playing in the group ahead.
Battling a rib injury he worried would prevent him from even teeing off in the final round, Hendry took the outright lead when he birdied the par-5 ninth and again separated himself from Scott and Flanagan when he moved to 12-under at the 10th.
Near misses at 11 and 13 kept the chasing pack close behind and when a flared tee shot at 15 led to just a par, Hendry’s momentum momentarily stalled.
On the back of a birdie at 14 and with a career record of playing the 15th hole in 17-under par in 17 visits, Scott seized the initiative when he lasered a 5-iron from 215 yards to 10 feet, the successful eagle putt moving him to 14-under and a two-shot advantage.
Even a bogey at the 72nd hole did nothing to close the ultimate margin of victory as Scott clinched the Joe Kirkwood Cup for a second time and his 30th win worldwide, a win he was beginning to wonder might never come again.
“It’s been a long time between drinks for me and maybe only once or twice did the thought cross my mind that I’ll never win again,” Scott admitted after ending a winning drought stretching back three years, nine months and 16 days to the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March 2016.
“It’s very difficult to win. I’m on the wrong side of this age thing now where these young guys are really good. I played some pretty good golf a couple weeks this year and fell short. You know, record setting scores.
“The courses are getting tougher, guys are playing good. Just being all right doesn’t really get you in, you’ve got to be pretty much sensational.”
Scott, Hendry and Wade Ormsby (T3) were the only players to complete all four rounds under par and while it was nice to advance his record to 19-under from 18 attempts with eagle at 15, Scott pointed to the par save as 12 as being just as important.
Scott’s tee shot finished beneath trees left of the fairway and stuck in a twisted mess of roots that necessitated a penalty drop just 20 metres further back, a putt from six feet the type of rescue mission ever winner needs on the final day.
“Six, seven and eight I thought just made the day hard for me because I had an opportunity to, I thought, kind of get a few in front and make it hard for everyone else, but I didn’t do well on those holes,” the 39-year-old admitted, his blemish at eight his only dropped shot until the final hole.
“And then 12 was a great save. As good as the eagle on 15 was, the par on 12 was equally good.”
Throughout the week Scott alluded to the need to break his winless streak in order to build towards an attempt at a second green jacket at The Masters in April, sharing the spoils of victory with his two children an added bonus.
“That will be fun for my daughter because she’s asked all year for a trophy, so I’ve not been able to deliver,” Scott said of his early Christmas present.
“So that will be fun for me tonight, see if that makes her happy.
“It’s big for the confidence. I’ve seen what it’s done for me in the past; a win, you feel like you’re just never going to lose again, so you want to run with that while the confidence is up.
“Somehow I’ll have to think that in seven weeks when I step back onto the course in LA.
“At the end of 2012, I won the Masters in Melbourne and then off some good golf where I didn’t win and what that kicked me onto in ’13 and on.
“You know, there’s a lot of confidence from a win and I’ll look forward to enjoying that.
“There’s a long way to go, but it’s nice to have reassurance and the belief of winning.
“You want to be in contention and you want to find out how you feel and how you respond and I got some of that today.
“If I happen to be in that position someday at the Masters, I can draw on today and past experience, but this is a little more fresh than going back to 2016 and trying to remember how I felt.”
Despite dropped shots at 17 and 18 Hendry held on to finish outright second at 11-under par with 2017 Australian Open winner Cameron Davis, China’s Yuan Yechun, Ormsby, Flanagan and Min Woo Lee all locked together in a tie for third at 10-under par.