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Adam Scott’s reaction to a made 10-footer for birdie on the 17th green said it all. It was a colossal putt that finally granted the Aussie some breathing room atop a leaderboard packed with some of the world’s best. He pumped his first emphatically on the way to retrieve the ball. Scott proceeded to laser a drive down the par-4 18th on his way to a closing par and the rest is history.
Scott had begun the day tied with early-week leader Matt Kuchar and World No. 1 Rory McIlroy. After some early jostling, Scott emerged as the strongest player. Even two bogeys and a double couldn’t derail his Sunday, though granted, no other player made much of a push to take the title from him.
Scott, who had said after the third round that he felt comfortable on Riviera’s tricky greens and that it gave him an advantage, fired a final-round 70 to finish at 11 under.
By the end of the day, Sung Kang, Scott Brown and Kuchar were Scott’s biggest challengers. All three men tied for second at 9 under.
A five-man tie for fifth included McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, Max Homa and Joel Dahmen.
Riviera’s history is deep, having hosted everything from a U.S. Open to the PGA Championship to the NCAA Championship. Scott adds his name to a long list of distinguished champions. Even better, the victory comes 15 years after Scott won a playoff at Riviera during the 2005 Nissan Open. That didn’t count as an official victory considering that rain caused the event to be shortened to 36 holes..
“It’s amazing,” Scott told CBS immediately after play. “I’ve loved this place from day one and it was tough out there today but the crowd is incredible. I feel like they’re on my side here, believe it or not, and I’m stoked for this.”
For the 39-year-old, the Genesis Invitational amounted to PGA Tour title No. 14 and his first since winning the 2016 WGC-Cadillac Championship.
“It’s a big step for both,” he said when asked what the Genesis title meant both personally and professionally. “Whatever point in my career I’m at and I hadn’t won for three years? And this feels very special. Thank you to my crew and my family.”
No player lit it up on Sunday, especially those in the final group, as the wind kicked up, hole locations got trickier and the course continued to get firmer. Kuchar, for one, never could get much going, playing the front nine in even par then starting the back nine with bogeys at Nos. 10 and 12.
McIlroy’s day looked like it might be promising after a birdie on the opening hole, but a triple-bogey on No. 5 followed by a bogey on No. 6 dropped him down the leaderboard. McIlroy secured his top-5 finish when he holed an 18-footer for birdie at No. 18.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was, but everyone was finding it tough out there,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, Adam held on well at the end. I was trying until the very end. I thought maybe if I could birdie a couple of the last few coming in I might still have a chance.”
One of the day’s best rounds came from Scott Brown, the 36-year-old whose sole career win came at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open. His 3-under 68 included five birdies. It boosted Brown nine spots up the leaderboard into the tie at second.