Australian Golfer Adam Scott Always a Threat at the Riviera

Tournament host Tiger Woods presented the Genesis trophy to Adam Scott in 2020.
Photo: Courtesy Genesis

Australian Adam Scott won the Genesis Invitational in 2020, but earlier that week, this editor was already betting he would come out on top.

There are a lot of ways for spectators to approach the tournament at the Riviera Country Club. This editor’s favorite strategy is to select a hole where you can settle next to the green and watch players hit their approach shots and then their putts, one pro after another.

The golfers all have fantastic drives, yardage-wise. It’s when the ball goes into the trees or spectators, and the golfers have to deal with the problem of getting on the green, that it becomes interesting.

The ones who seem to make the shots, as if they’re still playing from the fairway, are usually the ones who finish near the top.

In 2020, this editor settled on Hole 17, a long Par-5. The frustration was obvious in some golfers. But Scott, who had a long putt (most likely a two-putt), leaned against a railing, one leg in front of the other, with a big smile on his face – it was like he was enjoying an afternoon in the park.

His demeanor, his calmness and the ease with how the tournament was progressing was apparent – and then he sank his birdie putt. It was clear Scott was going to win the Genesis.

That year, on the final day, Scott, Matt Kuchar and Rory McIlroy were tied for the lead at 10-under.

McIlroy fell out of contention with a triple bogey on the fifth hole and a bogey on six. Scott bogeyed the fourth hole and then double bogeyed the fifth, but rebounded with a clutch birdie on six.

After the round, reporters asked Scott about the bogeys.

“You have to take away the big mistakes,” Scott said. “It could have slipped away, but it’s in those moments where you just have to kind of cliché everything and get back in your process or stay in the moment and just do what’s been working well.

“It’s not time to kind of get flustered and try something new on the sixth hole of the final round,” Scott said. “I just tried to do what I had done all week on the next swing and made a good swing and made a good putt.”

Scott was 10-under for the tournament when he teed off on 17, one stroke ahead of Sung Kang and Scott Brown, who had finished their rounds, and Kuchar. It was a tight contest and fans were eager to see if Scott could hold his lead.

Scott proceeded to birdie 17 and closed with an easy par to win by two strokes with rounds of 72-64-67-70. Afterwards, he singled out the defining moment.

“The shot that made the difference was deciding to flop the second chip on 15 after I was plugged into the bunker. I kind of knifed it across the green,” he said. “It was a horrible position. I stood there and I wanted to bump it into the fringe, but realistically it was going to be 45 feet past, and 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.’

“I had a little bit of that kind of mindset, not just today, but the whole week of not being careless, but ‘what have I got to lose’ kind of thing going,’ to give myself a good chance to get back in the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour,” he said. “So that shot stood out for me.”

Scott also won the Genesis (then called the Northern Trust) in 2005, but because the event was shortened to 36 holes due to rain, it was not recognized as an official victory. He was the runner-up in 2006 and 2016.

“When I chat about my feelings when I play with my coach, we often talk about just letting go a little bit,” Scott said. “I mean, at times I feel like I’m too loose on some shots, but then there are other moments when I play a little too conservative all the time. It’s a fine balance playing down the stretch in contention and finding the right place. It was fairly clear to me at that moment, my first thought was bump it in, it’s safe but I’ll probably make a double. Then I thought I really want to win this and maybe this shot can do it, and I hit a really great shot. It was quite fun.”

Since 2020, he has been one of this editor’s favorite golfers to follow.

Adam Scott answered questions during a media interview at the Riviera.
Photo: BEN JARED/PGA Tour via Getty Images.

This year, Scott is playing in the tournament on a sponsor’s exemption. He said in an interview, “It’s always a highlight of my year playing here. I love this track and love this event.

He added, “It’s a great designed golf course, but there are other things to me. Obviously, I’ve played nicely here, so I have good feelings about that. I have feelings like I’m in Australia when I play the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th holes,” he said. “The eucalyptus trees kind of smell like it does in Australia, the grass is similar, the weather can be similar as well. I just have this certain level of comfort.”

His 2020 win at the Genesis came a few weeks before everything shut down with Covid and he was asked if that was momentum killing. “It seemed like you were in a really good spot at that moment and maybe had more trouble than others kind of getting back?”

“I think I was playing great at the time when I won and was in the top 10 in the world and trending in a good direction,” Scott said.

“I spent a lot of time quarantining. I think it was 16 or 18 weeks through the Covid period, so that was probably detrimental.

“I have found it tougher to get back,” Scott said. “I’m not complaining, I mean 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, 43, joined the tour in 2003 and has played 390 events, with 14 PGA Tour wins and 14 International wins. He has been runner-up 14 times and had 62 top-five finishes.

He was asked how many peak years he felt he had left, and who impressed him most for longevity.

“I for sure think I’ve got a couple more years unless all of a sudden my numbers start tapering off quickly,” Scott said, and added those golfers who impressed him most for longevity include Matt Kuchar, who is still playing at a high level, and Charley Hoffman, 47, who nearly won the WP Phoenix Open last week.

“So, it’s possible, but it’s definitely getting harder for the guys in their mid-40s to stay competitive at the top, week in and week out,” Scott said. “But when you’re a talented player and you’re on the PGA TOUR, any given week I think you can still get it done, but it’s harder to do it year-round.”

Adam Scott waiting to putt last year at the Genesis.

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