Adam Scott has successfully defended his Talisker Masters Gold Jacket, winning by two shots over American Matt Kuchar at Royal Melbourne Golf Course this afternoon. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the World No.2 Scott whose even par round 71 comprised of 2 bogeys and a near disasterous double bogey five on the par three 14th hole.
Entering the final round with a four shot lead over playing partner Vijay Singh, Nick Cullen and Victorian duo Nathan Holman and Matt Griffin, Scott made birdie on the 3rd but faultered on the 5th and 7th with a birdie on the 6th to remain even. Meanwhile, Singh had put together three straight birdies through holes 4-6 and closed the gap to just two shots but the veteran started to unravel on the greens with multiple three-putts just before he made the turn.
With Singh faultering and the rest of the field slipping back, the only other challenger would be World No.8 Kuchar who was two groups ahead of Scott, playing alongside Holman who had a day to forget shooting a seven-over 78. After a bogey six on the 2nd, Kuchar hit a hot streak with six birdies through holes 3-11 and was giving the reigning champion something to think about ahead.
A pivotal moment came on the 14th hole when Scott went against the advice of caddy Steve Williams and hit a sand wedge which finished plugged in the front bunker. With a terrible lie, Scott played his second across the green and up into the rough before chipping back downhill and leaving a sizeable putt just to make bogey. The putt would miss and Scott took his first double bogey since returning to Australia this year.
"Steve wanted me to hit wedge on 14 but I thought it was a sand iron which was a mistake on my behalf. That hole was playing so short all week," Scott said.
Kuchar didn’t waste anytime in capitalising on Scott’s error, picking up a birdie on the par five 15th and in the blink of an eye, Scott’s two shot lead was erased and the American now led the tournament by a shot at -15.
The hiccup at 14 had the potential to rattle Scott coming home but the US Masters winner responded in the best possible manner with a birdie four on the 15th. Kuchar would hand a shot back on the 16th around the same time, meaning a playoff was looming as both players sat at -14.
With massive galleries lining the fairways, Scott made two solid pars on 16 & 17 but Kuchar despite having a 15 foot birdie chance on 17 found trouble on the final hole. The big American found a bunker on his second shot and took two attempts to get it out and then a further two on the green saw him finish with a double bogey six to drop back to -12.
Knowing what had unfolded up ahead, Scott played safe golf on the 18th, taking the advice of caddy Williams to hit his approach shot to the fat part of the green. Scott did just that and was left with three putts to close out victory. He would only need two and celebrated a two shot victory to the gallery’s delight, finishing 14 under for the tournament.
In his press conference, Scott was pleased he was able to hold on and credited his first three rounds in providing the buffer he needed today.
"Sometimes you win a bit ugly. There was enough good stuff to keep me in there. All the stuff I had done in the first three rounds counted for a lot," Scott stated.
"I’m riding a wave of confidence on the golf course right now. My game is in great shape. This winning feeling helps the mental state."
Kuchar dropped three shots in the final three holes but despite the bad finish, played very well all week, finishing at 12 under and outright second. Having a week of course knowledge under his belt, Kuchar will be a strong favourite for the individual title at the World Cup next week.
Singh finished in third position at 10 under with a final round even par that included six birdies and six bogeys, and 32 putts compared to his 28 putts in rounds two and three.
It wasn’t the greatest of day’s for Holman and Griffin who had high hopes of challenging at the start of the day. Having played rock solid golf for the first three rounds, Holman had a stretch where the young 22 year old dropped eight shots over 10 holes. Nothing went right for the Woodlands Golf Club member until the 17th where he nearly holed out an approach for eagle, hitting the pin. He would make birdie but gave that shot back on the final hole to post a round of 78 and finish the Masters at three under and 15th place.
Griffin also struggled on the final day, recorded a four-over 75 to share in 5th position with New Zealander Ryan Fox at six-under the card. Two double bogeys on the 4th and 9th really hurt the chances of the Victorian who continues to search for his breakthrough Australian Major victory.
The best round of the Victorian’s belonged to Marc Leishman who was out earlier in the day and posted a final round best of six-under 65 to move up the leader board to tie for 7th. Fellow Vic, Geoff Ogilvy shot two-under to also finish tied for 7th at -5.
Meanwhile, the comeback story of Jarrod Lyle continued out on course. Unfortunately fatigue looked like it caught up with the 32 year old who was playing his first four rounds at a pro event in 20 months. Having shot previous rounds of 72, 71 and 70, Lyle posted an eight-over 79 to finish at eight-over and tied for 57th. Despite the final round, Lyle’s return was remarkable and inspiring to all those that witnessed.
The focus will now shift to next week’s ISPS Handa World Cup at Royal Melbourne once again. Adam Scott and Jason Day will be the Australian representatives.