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Adam Scott aiming to win at Riviera Country Club without an asterisk

Co-leader Adam Scott watches his shot from the 14th tee during the third round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades on Saturday.
Co-leader Adam Scott watches his shot from the 14th tee during the third round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades on Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Adam Scott is finally getting a mulligan at Riviera Country Club.

Fifteen years ago, Scott won the annual PGA Tour stop in Los Angeles, sort of. Heavy rain had disrupted play from the start, and the tournament had become a 36-hole slogfest.

When Scott and co-leader Chad Campbell returned to the soggy Pacific Palisades layout on a rainy Monday morning, officials hopeful against the odds they could get a third round in, they wound up settling for a one-hole playoff.

Scott won with a four-foot par putt and took home the $864,000 winner’s check, but the tournament was declared unofficial because only two rounds had been played.

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Sunday, Scott gets a chance at a title without an asterisk when he tees it up in the final group of the Genesis Invitational against his two co-leaders, Matt Kuchar and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

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Highlights from the third round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on Saturday.

“I remember spending the most amount of time ever in a locker room that week,” Scott recalled. “It was at least two days of eight hours sitting in the locker room and just waiting around. ...

“I guess it was good that it was called off,” he added of the aborted third round. “And then you win and then you’re told it’s not a win; that was not good. Even though I had the trophy, it’s not official.”

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The weather, which has been perfect from the start, won’t limit play this year, and Scott is hopeful that the strong play he has shown over three rounds will help him secure the 14th victory of his career. He shot a four-under-par 67 in the third round Saturday, coming on the heels of his blistering 64 the day before, and stands at 10 under par.

McIlroy shot a 68 Saturday and Kuchar, who held a two-shot lead at the start of the third round, settled down to shoot a 70 after three late bogeys and will try to win a tournament leading wire to wire for the first time in his career.

Harold Varner III, who was playing in the final group with Kuchar and McIlroy on Saturday, also recovered from three back-nine bogeys to shoot a 69, his third consecutive round in the 60s, and is a stroke behind the leaders. He is tied with Russell Henley, a three-time winner on tour but a player who has, like Varner, struggled of late. Henley, who shot a 68 Saturday, has missed the cut in his last five events; Varner has missed the cut in his last four.

Joel Dahmen (66) and Dustin Johnson are tied for sixth at eight under, one shot ahead of Valencia native Max Homa (65), Sung Kang (70) and Talor Gooch, who eagled No. 10 and birdied the last three holes for a 64.

Johnson, winner of this event in 2017, was treading water with pars on his first six holes, then was all over the board. In his final 12 holes, he had an eagle, six birdies, two pars, two bogeys and a double bogey.

Six players, including Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama, are at six under par.

It was the kind of cloudless, crisp and calm February day that helps explain why millions of people have moved to Southern California over the years. Many of them followed Tiger Woods, trying to remain optimistic despite a dreadful performance by the tournament host.

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After starting on No. 10, Woods four-putted the 13th hole from 18 feet, added bogeys on two of the next three holes and shot a midrange handicap five-over-par 41 on his first nine holes.

He wound up with a 76. Out of contention for Sunday’s final round, he’s in 63rd place among the field of 68.

His assessment was simple: “Well, that was a lot of shots. I hit the ball quite a few times, especially on the greens, and it was a long day.”

For 12 holes, Kuchar appeared on cruise control. He birdied the first hole and added two more on the seventh and 11th holes before bogeys on 13, 15 and 16 dropped him out of the lead. He righted things with a birdie on the par-five 17th, ramming a 14-foot birdie putt in the back of the hole.

A nicely raked bunker can be a thing of beauty, but keeping bunkers in pristine condition is difficult and a point of contention when it comes to golf etiquette.

“There’s not a PGA Tour event you wouldn’t want to win,” said Kuchar, who has won nine of them. “But there a handful that are extra special, have a great list of past champions, have a great golf course. This one’s one of those.”

McIlroy, who had missed a handful of seemingly makeable birdie putts on the front nine, was four under through his first 13 holes Saturday before running a seven-foot par putt a foot past the hole for bogey.

“I felt like I hit it well all day, especially at the start of the round, but I felt like every time I hit a decent shot I left myself on the wrong side of the hole,” McIlroy said. “And the putts that I had were very defensive, downhill, big breakers, trying to play enough break, trying to die them in, and especially on this golf course, they’re very tricky, very difficult to make.”

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Scott hasn’t played since the Presidents Cup in December and apparently used the time off efficiently.

“I feel I planned my break well and planned my preparation well,” he said. “I almost feel like I know what I’m doing after 20 years of having a season and having a break and coming back out.”

Harold Varner III know what it’s like to tumble down PGA leaderboards, but Saturday at the Genesis Invitational he steadied himself to remain one shot off lead.

And Sunday, one of his playing partners is the No. 1 golfer in the world.

“He’s certainly kind of one of the benchmarks of the game,” Scott, himself a former No. 1, said of McIlroy.

“It will be good for me to have a little bit of an insight into where that benchmark is and see how I stack up. Hopefully on the day tomorrow, I can get the better of everybody.”

And collect the trophy, the $1.674-million winner’s check and the title with no asterisk attached.


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