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Friends in high places

Riviera star Adam Scott had to ask Tiger Woods for a sponsor's invite to play this week

February 13, 2024
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Ben Jared

LOS ANGELES — Adam Scott won the very first time he played at Riviera Country Club on the PGA Tour in 2005, though it was considered “unofficial” because the rain-plagued event was cut to 36 holes and a Monday finish. Fifteen years later, with a bunch of top-10 finishes in between, he won at the storied Los Angeles course again—only weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Understandably, the man from Australia who cherishes the smell of the eucalyptus trees when he’s here, calls Riviera his favorite track in all of America.

So when the 43-year-old Scott’s PGA Tour standing didn’t put him in the field of 71 players in the signature event Genesis Invitational this week, he maybe swallowed his pride a bit and did the logical thing and asked host Tiger Woods if he could get an invitation. Charley Hoffman recounted over the weekend being rejected by Woods, though the veteran earned his way into the field with a playoff loss in Phoenix. There were no doubt others who asked for such a gift from Woods, because who doesn’t want to play for a $20 million purse?

But few would have had Scott’s résumé as a 14-time PGA Tour winner and past Masters champion. Combine that with the Aussie’s history at Riviera—seven top-10 finishes in 17 starts—and it seemed all but a no-brainer for the host.

“I can't remember exactly when the last sponsor's invite was,” Scott said on Tuesday. “I probably have been invited to a tournament in Asia or something like that throughout the years, but on the tour, it's been a while, that's for sure. … I'm of the view that these invitations are unrestricted to the sponsors and they can invite whoever they want and that's up to them. So, I feel lucky that I've got one of them. If I didn't, then, you know, I didn't qualify. So that's how it goes. I don't expect to get invited to every tournament that I ask for either, but I am very happy to be here. Like I said, this is an event I look forward to very much. It's my favorite track of the year and hopefully make the most of it.”

Scott’s last victory on the PGA Tour came at Riviera in February 2020 when he shot 64 in the second round en route to the win. Less than a month later, the entire world shut down because of COVID-19, and faced with strict travel restrictions, Scott would hunker down in Australia for the next few months before resurfacing at the PGA Championship in August.

Though Scott was focused more on golf in the pandemic, the break came at a terrible time. He was a player with a hot hand, having won the Australian PGA in his previous start before Riviera.

“I think I was playing great at the time when I won, and I think I was top-10 kind of in the world and trending in a good direction,” Scott said. “COVID was tricky because I think not living in the United States through that period was quite tough. I spent a lot of time quarantining I think it was 16 or 18 weeks in the end through the COVID period, so that was probably detrimental. A lot of time wasted in a sense not being productive or anything.

“I have found it tougher to get back,” he added. “I'm not complaining, everyone faced difficulties. But I sit here and I feel good about my game today and hopefully I'm on the path back to some high-level golf.”

Scott, currently ranked 48th in the world, is coming off a strong showing of T-8 at the WM Phoenix Open in which he twice played 30 holes in a day due to weather delays and still managed weekend scores of 65-66. He tied for 20th at Pebble Beach, and though he says it has gotten harder for 40-something players to compete on tour, Scott still feels like he has plenty of energy left in the tank.

“I think I’m relevant,” Scott said. And Tiger Woods no doubt agrees.