Adam Scott gets an official win at Riviera Country Club, Tiger Woods remains 0-fer at the same site, Inbee Park joins the LPGA's 20-something club and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble.
1. Adam Scott captured the Genesis Invitational for his first official win at Riviera Country Club (he won an unofficial, rain-shortened, 36-hole event in 2005).
TAKEAWAY: This is Scott's second worldwide win in three months (Australian PGA in December), but it's his first PGA Tour victory in four years. As detailed here, Scott’s renaissance – which has him back inside the Official World Golf Ranking top 10 – is not something that happened overnight. There wasn’t a quick fix involved. It required dedication to sharpening his short game and a healthy dose of motivation.
Scott’s resume – 14 PGA Tour wins, one major, one Players, a stint at world No. 1 – puts him on par with Hall of Fame member Fred Couples. But the 39-year-old also has a pair of WGC titles, eight other European wins and multiple victories in Asia and Australia. Are his current numbers HOF worthy? Given today’s standards, likely yes. But given his current form and his focus, he’s likely to cast away any doubt.
2. Tiger Woods continued his Riviera Country Club drought by finishing dead last among those who made the cut at the Genesis.
TAKEAWAY: Woods eagled his first hole of the tournament, was 4 under par through eight holes, and was well on his way to a record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour victory. And then he finished 68th, shooting 76-77 over the weekend. When asked prior to the tournament why he's never won at this venue, Woods bemoaned his putting on the poa annua surfaces. And, true to his word, he was quite awful on the greens this week. Woods four-putted from 18 feet and missed eight (!) times inside of 10 feet – and that was just on Saturday.
It was a dismal week, on the whole for Woods. He barely practiced because of his back and/or hosting duties, barely hit half his fairways, hit less than half his greens and, of course, there was the putting. Write this one off as a man who doesn't perform well on this track or a man who didn't feel well this week. He has at least one if not two weeks to rest and recover, before he begins the Florida swing and his final push to Augusta.
3. One of three 54-hole co-leaders, Rory McIlroy carded a 2-over 73 in the final round to drop into a tie for fifth.
TAKEAWAY: Most dispiritingly, McIlroy’s Sunday charge was halted early – with an approach that flew too far and bounded over the back of the green on No. 5, leading to a series of errors from an impossible spot and an ugly triple bogey. The next hole? Another bogey, after putting himself in poor position again on the bunker-filled par 3. Just like that, McIlroy would never pull any closer than two shots from the lead the rest of the day.
For those keeping score at home, that’s three consecutive uninspiring Sundays for McIlroy, who had a golden opportunity to make a statement victory as the new No. 1. Following his WGC-HSBC Champions victory, McIlroy shot 73 in the second-to-last group in Dubai, getting blown away by Rahm; he made five bogeys (including three in a row to start) while in the final group at Torrey Pines; he and carded a listless 73 while in the last three-ball at Riviera.
Another reminder that while McIlroy is indisputably the best player in the world – right now – he is not unbeatable.
4. Five of the top 13 players in the world will skip this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship.
TAKEAWAY: The biggest absence, of course, is Woods, who said he “wasn’t going to be ready” to compete a week after his back stiffened up and his mind was elsewhere after a week of hosting duties. Also among those not making the trip are world No. 2 Brooks Koepka (who has never fared well in Mexico City), No. 6 Patrick Cantlay (septum surgery) and Tony Finau.
So many no-shows means that the number of world-ranking points on offer this week at a premier World Golf Championships event is essentially the same as last week’s elevated event at Riviera (70). That stings. Some don’t like the quirky course, which is tight, doesn’t require driver and plays at 7,500 feet above sea level. Some need a break after a busy West Coast swing. And some would prefer to make an extra start on the Bermuda greens in Florida.
But it does bring up an interesting point regarding the rumored Premier Golf League: If players can’t be bothered to show up this week to compete against a limited field with a huge purse and for guaranteed world-ranking, FedExCup and Olympic points, why would the big-money PGL model be any more successful?
5. Inbee Park claimed her 20th career LPGA title, winning the Women's Australian Open by two strokes.
TAKEAWAY: Park is now tied for 26th on the tour's all-time victory list. But two things stand out: 1) more than a third of her wins (7) are majors; 2) only four players on this list have won an LPGA event since Park claimed her first. What does this mean? It means that she's both a spotlight performer (she also has an Olympic gold medal) and the best player of her generation. Her next step up sports' immortality ladder is to surpass Se Ri Pak as the greatest South Korean player of all time. Pak, who will forever be the most influential player of her country, has 25 LPGA wins and five majors.
This Week's Award Winners ...
Pros, They're Just Like Us, Part I: Tied for the lead and in search of his first PGA Tour win, Harold Varner III topped his tee shot on the par-4 10th. It went 129 yards and he made double bogey, eventually tying for 13th.
Pros, They're Just Like Us, Part II: Ryan Palmer needed six shots to exit a greenside bunker on the 14th hole in the third round. Said Palmer, "Fatted it up there. It stayed (near the lip). Somehow. Came down. Fatted it. Stayed, somehow. Tried to hit it each time. Came down in a footprint, chopped it out and two-putted.” He made a sextuple-bogey 9.
WTH? Moment of the Week: Leading the tournament with four holes to play, Adam Scott laced a tee shot at the par-4 15th ... right through the group standing in the fairway. The ball rolled past Joel Dahmen, who later said, "We were in plain sight. If you get around the (fairway) bunker you can’t see anything. But sometimes when you’re leading, the adrenaline is going and you just the ball. I don’t know. I wasn’t bothered by it.”
Said Scott, “That might sound funny, they’re standing in the middle of the fairway, but it just looked like they were part of the gallery. I wasn’t really giving them a hurry-up, although it was pretty slow out there today.”
For the record, Dahmen birdied the hole. Scott made bogey.
Hopefully He Played Better: Bubba Watson. Bubba had a little extra free time last weekend after missing the cut by one at Riviera – in heartbreaking fashion, too, after losing a ball in the trees on 15 and then bogeying his final hole – and he linked up for a round with Justin Bieber and some friends. We’ll never truly understand why these two are friends, but it does add at least a few percentage points to Bubba’s cool factor.
Was Good Seeing You: Jordan Spieth's foray back inside the OWGR top 50 lasted one week. He dropped from 49th to 53rd, following his T-59 at the Genesis. He's still in this week's WGC-Mexico field, as is Collin Morikawa, who swapped spots with Spieth this week.
Missing the Point: Riviera’s distance. That 11 under won in firm, fiery conditions (and with little rough) was used to counteract the Distance Insights Report, but, um, Riviera’s 18th wasn’t meant to be played with a driver and gap wedge with the tournament on the line.
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. JT’s head-to-head record against Woods was exceptional (10-1-3!) but he simply didn’t have it this week, missing the cut with rounds of 74-71. He’ll have to try again in 2021 to avenge the four-shot lead he coughed up in ’19. Sigh.