Adam Scott's second victory at Riviera won't include an asterisk

February 16, 2020

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — This time, it’s official.    A decade and a half after Adam Scott “won” a rain-shortened 36-hole tournament here, which isn't formally recognized by the PGA Tour as a victory, the 39-year-old Aussie emerged victorious once more on a frenetic Sunday at an unseasonably fiery Riviera Country Club. A final-round 70 was good for a hard-earned two-shot triumph over Sung Kang, Scott Brown and Matt Kuchar at the Genesis Invitational.

Scott has always loved this golf course, his—and seemingly many other's—favorite on tour. But he’s only kind of been able to call himself a past champion. There was no asterisk on the portrait of him in the clubhouse, but there may as well have been. Now? There’s no doubt, no footnote, no equivocations. Adam Scott has conquered Riviera.

“It's incredibly satisfying to win a tournament of this stature on a golf course of this stature,” Scott said. “It was a wonderful week. It was incredibly enjoyable just being here with the weather like this, the course in perfect condition and a great field. Even better to come out on top and kind of have your game really tested today. It was not easy, and that was most enjoyable—to kind of see that my game is holding up.”

Genesis Invitational - Final Round

Chris Trotman

The victory in 2005 didn’t count toward his career PGA Tour win haul, which now totals 14. This one—his first on the U.S. circuit since March 2016, though he did win the Australian PGA Championship in his last start before this, in December—could count double, given how tough it came, the course he won it on and the field he beat.

Nine of the top 10 in the world teed it up—including new World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who started the day in a three-way tie for the lead with Scott and Kuchar but flamed out of contention with a triple-bogey 7 on the fifth hole Sunday.

Scott was ranked No. 14 at the start of the week. But he will jump inside the top 10 on Monday for the first time in nearly two years, as he’s projected to reach No. 7 when the new World Rankings drop Monday.

“My career is in a good spot,” he said. “You know, even before winning this week, I feel like physically and somewhat mentally I'm OK after 20 years out here. I really do believe if I can maintain motivation and focus, the next five years can be my best years on tour.”

At his best, no one makes hitting a golf ball look simpler than Scott, his picture-perfect swing long serving as a model for junior golfers everywhere. He’s equally smooth off the course, with his measured cadence and soothing Australian accent. He’s just … easy.

But Sunday was anything but.

After a room-service dinner and a phone call to his daughter Bo-Vera, who turned 5 over the weekend, Scott slept on a share of the lead Saturday night knowing he was in for a challenge. At the start of the final round, there were 16 players within four shots of the lead, including McIlroy—who Scott called a “benchmark of the game” on Saturday—and Kuchar and Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm.

Scott took the lead alone with birdies on the first and third holes, but he found himself playing catchup after going bogey/double bogey on Nos. 4 and 5. he bounced back with a birdie after nearly holing his tee shot on the par-4 sixth and then made six straight steady pars.

“On four and five, it could have really slipped away, but it's in those moments where you just have to cliché everything and get back in your process, or stay in the moment and just do what's been working well,” Scott said. “It's not time to kind of get flustered and try something new on the sixth hole of the final round. I just really tried to do what I had done all week on that next swing and made a good swing and made a good putt.”

Genesis Invitational - Final Round

Chris Trotman

Pars were good currency all day in what can only be described as major-like conditions. February in Los Angeles usually brings with it some measure of moisture, but a dry couple weeks led to a dry course and firmer greens than any Genesis in recent memory. That, as well as a breezy afternoon and brutal pin conditions, created a golf course that simply didn’t yield many birdies. The lowest score of the day was three-under 68.

“Honestly, I didn't expect it to be as difficult as it was,” McIlroy said. “But everyone was finding it tough out there.”

Indeed they were. Added Kuchar: “It was one hard day out there. [Caddie] John Wood pulled me aside on the driving range—he knew I wasn't playing my best, and he said, ‘Listen, those pin locations are harder today. You play smart, par's going to be good on every hole.’ That was my game plan.”

Kuchar hung around all day, as did Dustin Johnson before two late bogeys cost him. Hometown boy Max Homa was in with a shout until his tee shot on the par-3 16th plugged in the bunker, and Joel Dahmen had an outside chance before missing a must-make birdie at 17. It was that kind of day—no less than 10 players looked to be legitimate threats to win at varying points of the afternoon. Tournament host Tiger Woods was not one of those players, as he shot a six-over 77 after yet another brutal day on the Poa annua greens, finishing last in the field for all players who made the cut.

Amid all the movement around him, Scott never wavered, even after he found a plugged lie in a bunker of his own on 15 and had to summon a brilliant flop shot to save bogey. After a solid par on 16, he sealed the win with a birdie on the par-5 17th, set up by a 338-yard drive that split the fairway. A two-putt par on the iconic 18th finished it.

“Hopefully it does just give me the confidence to play a little better, and certainly those feelings of what it's like being in contention is good. Especially coming into the majors.”