Adam Scott secures a long-awaited official victory at Riviera Country Club
It wasn’t a U.S. Open; it only looked that way.
With greens that seemed almost as firm as granite and pin placements that created target areas not much larger than manhole covers, Riviera Country Club presented a challenge that Sunday got the better of most of the best golfers in the world.
But not Adam Scott.
Scott, co-leader of the Genesis Invitational with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar heading into play Sunday, survived a couple of front-nine hiccups and held on to shoot a one-under-par 70 to finish at 11 under par. That was two strokes better than Sung Kang, who shot a 69, Scott Brown (68) and Kuchar, who had led after each of the first three rounds but stalled in the fourth round with a 72.
Scott had won at Riviera in 2005, but the result was not official because the event had been shortened to 36 holes after rain saturated Southern California. Scott proved he was a mudder 15 years ago; he showed Sunday he could outrun the field on a fast track too.
He went to the 17th hole holding on to a very tentative one-stroke lead, something that could evaporate quickly on a day when even the leaders were making nearly as many bogeys as birdies. He hit his third shot on the 589-yard par five to 11 feet, then drained the putt to give him a little breathing room heading into No. 18. He needed to make only bogey to win; his par left him with the extra cushion.
“Yeah, I wanted to birdie 17, absolutely,” Scott said. “Getting the driver in play made it a birdie hole for me.
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.
“I knew I would be a lot more comfortable on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead than a one-shot lead. ... And that putt is almost a winning putt, I feel, at that point. So that was a nice one to make and it gave me a very comfortable kind of walk up the 18th once my drive was up the top of the hill.”
Scott managed five birdies, but he had two bogeys and one double to nearly offset them; Sunday’s scores on the firm, dry greens were an average of more than a stroke and a half higher than the third round.
McIlroy effectively fell out of the running on the par-four fifth hole, the most difficult hole of the day, a hole that yielded only seven birdies but produced 15 bogeys, two double bogeys and one triple bogey. The triple belonged to McIlroy, who took four shots to get on the green of the 443-yard hole and three-putted from there.
“Yeah, honestly, I didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was,” said McIlroy, who finished tied for fifth after a 73. “But everyone was finding it tough out there.”
McIlroy was hardly the only player to struggle on No. 5. Scott, who had bogeyed the 243-yard par-three fourth hole after missing the green, double bogeyed No. 5 and at that point fell out of the lead.
Highlights from the final round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.
“I mean, on four and five it could have really slipped away,” Scott said, “but it’s in those moments where you just have to kind of cliche 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.”
On No. 6, the 199-yard par-three with a bunker in the middle of the green, McIlroy dropped another shot after hitting to the wrong side of the bunker and chipping over it from the front of the green. He bogeyed. But Scott reclaimed part of the lead when he drained an 18-foot birdie putt.
“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,” Scott said.
“That kind of gave me the belief that I just had to keep doing that all day and believe that there was enough good golf in me to get me in a position at the end to have a chance.”
Kuchar birdied the first hole, a two-shot improvement over his third round, but lost ground with three bogeys until a birdie on No. 17 helped put him back in second place.
“My knowledge isn’t great of all the Sunday pin locations here,” Kuchar said, “but this is as firm as I’ve seen this course. Anytime the greens get firm, it makes it extra hard.”
No one in the upper reaches of the leaderboard escaped bogeys on another sunny, breezy afternoon. Among the 12 players at seven under or better, there were 28 bogeys, four double bogeys and McIlroy’s triple.
“It was one hard day out there,” Kuchar said.
Scott has 14 victories on the PGA Tour. He hadn’t won a tour event since the WGC Cadillac Championship in 2016, though he won the Australian Open, which is not a PGA Tour event, this month.
“I think probably for a couple years it weighed on my mind, it was frustrating,” Scott said of the winless gap. “I was pushing myself very hard, there was lots of changes in my life with a couple of kids and stuff. ... I realized you really need to have things lined up and things kind of going your way to give yourself a chance to win out here.
“There’s so many great players … and slowly but surely I’ve kind of got things back into a good place.”
No argument, they ended up in the right place Sunday.
Scott Brown’s parents have a house next to Augusta National. Had he won, he would have been eligible for the Masters this year.
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