Scott Brown tied for the best finishing round at Riviera Country Club on Sunday with a 68, and wound up in a three-way tie for second. Had Brown won, he would have qualified to play in the Masters for the first time.
Here’s why that matters: Brown was partly raised by his grandparents, Elizabeth and Herman Thacker, whose home is the lone house next to Augusta National. The golf club spent a reported $40 million in recent years buying up the Thackers’ old neighborhood for more Masters parking. But the Thackers declined to sell their modest home, a three-bedroom brick abode where they have spent the last six decades.
When Brown was a boy, he and his grandfather routinely attended the Masters.
“I’d take chairs and put them at the 16th hole,” Herman Thacker told The Los Angeles Times last year. “Then I’d come back home and he’d eat breakfast, and then we’d go back over there and the chairs would still be there. People don’t bother them. We stayed right there all day.”
Brown, 36, who lives in Aiken, S.C., has won one PGA Tour event, the 2013 Puerto Rico Open, but that’s not a qualifying tournament for the Masters.
He had an indication early last week he would do well at Riviera.
“I did play really well in the Monday pro-am,” Brown said. “I think I shot like seven-under and it was blowing like 30 [mph] out here. Had a hole-in-one on 16, so it was a fun day.”
Tying for second were Matt Kuchar, Sung Kang, and Brown. It was the 13th runner-up finish in a tour event for Kuchar, the third for Brown, and the second for Kang.
The 443-yard fifth was the hardest hole of the day Sunday, even for the players who finished at the top of the leaderboard.
Among the players who finished in the top 10, there were three bogeys (Kang, Scott Brown, and Hideki Matsuyama), two double-bogeys (Adam Scott and Chez Reavie), and a triple-bogey by Rory McIlroy on that hole.
That seven was the big blow-up for McIlroy, who had a share of the lead at the start of the day and played the rest of the round at even par.
Max Homa was the only top-10 finisher to birdie the fifth hole Sunday, doing so with a putt of 24 feet, 2 inches.
It was a forgettable finish for Tiger Woods, the tournament’s host, who placed last among the 68 golfers who made the cut, shooting a dreary 77 in the final round. That means he’s 0 for 13 at Riviera.
“I did not do much well today,” Woods said. “Good news: I hit every ball forward, not backwards. A couple sideways. But overall, I’m done.”
Woods actually has 14 starts in this event (one was at Valencia Country Club), and this is one of just two events in which he has double-digit starts but no victories. The other is in the Northern Trust, where he’s 0 for 10.
Woods can take solace in the fact that Jack Nicklaus never won a tournament at this legendary course, either. But as CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz pointed out, Nicklaus earned his first professional paycheck at Riviera — $33.33 in 1962, his share of a three-way tie for 50th at the Los Angeles Open.
Harold Varner III started Sunday tied for fourth, but finished tied for 13th after shooting 74. He’s still looking for his first tour victory.
Although he started the day with an eagle, he shot a 40 on the back with three bogeys and a double. He missed a five-foot par putt on 14, and a three-footer on 18.
Had he made that short putt on 18, he would have finished tied for 10th; those who placed 10th made $234,825 compared to Varner’s $176,700.
Live and learn
Ryan Palmer birdied the shortest hole on the course Sunday, the 182-yard 14th, with a tee shot to the back of the green and a putt of nearly 37 feet.
But that doesn’t wash away the memory of Palmer on the 14th in the third round. He made a sextuple-bogey there Saturday, needing five strokes to get out of the sand after putting his tee shot in a greenside bunker.
So his was a seven-shot improvement on the hole.