Date: May 26, 2014
Author: Martin Blake /

Validation win for Scott in Texas

<image="1" align="left" />Adam Scott scaled to No. 1 in the world and then delivered a message about precisely why. His playoff victory today in the Plaza Invitational in Texas validates what the computer says about his status.

 Scott's ascension to the top ranking for the first time ever had been anti-climactic since he did not play at all last week.

But today's brilliant victory, his 11th on the PGA Tour and his 25th worldwide, puts an exclamation mark on that achievement. He has had one start as world No. 1 for one win; some of the critics of his ascension to the top of the rankings — and there have been a few in the United States — might want to open their eyes.

 The Australian shot four-over par 39 for his opening nine holes at Colonial last Thursday. Even after he rallied to shoot one-over 71, he needed a good day on Friday to ensure that he made the cut. A 66 on Saturday put him into contention and then another superb 66 today sent him into a playoff with Jason Dufner of the United States, winner of last year's US PGA Championship and one of the finest ball-strikers on the planet.

 The playoff between two reigning major winners produced spectacular golf over three holes. Neither player flinched under the blowtorch.

First up the 18th, they both hit the green and made pars. Then to the 17th, where Dufner's magnificent nine iron second shot to just more than a metre put huge pressure on Scott, who was five metres away on the back fringe. The Australian nailed the birdie with one of the great clutch putts of his career, and Dufner completed his too, so they went back to the 18th.

 Scott needed another birdie to clinch it, and he found a way. Dufner's second shot flared wide, leaving him 15 metres for birdie, and the Australian lasered his wedge shot at the flag, sucking back to two metres from the cup. After Dufner ran his birdie putt by the hole, Scott stood up and rammed it home for the win.

 "This is a really special week for me,'' he said afterward. "It was, no matter what happened here. But to kind of fight my way back into this tournament, around this golf course, it's a real honor to win here.''

 Scott began the day knowing that his world No. 1 mantle was under threat from Henrik Stenson of Sweden, the world No. 3 whose seventh place in the BMW European PGA Championship in Surrey overnight had put him in with a chance of leaping to No. 1.

The calculations had been done: Scott needed to finish at the very least tied-13th at Colonial to hold his position.

 He did it comfortably, making birdies at three of the first four holes and then a wonderful par-save after trouble at the eighth hole to move within a shot of the lead. Then he double-bogeyed the ninth out of the blue, finishing with a wasteful three-putt, to slip out of the running momentarily, a position he rectified with birdies at the 11th and 12th holes.

 A bombed 13-metre birdie putt at the 14th reignited his round, and moved him to the lead, but Dufner had made his own crowd-pleaser with an eight-metre birdie putt down the hill at the 18th hole to post nine-under and tie Scott in the lead. The Australian was on the 17th hole at the time, and he had two opportunities to birdie but could not make them, including a six-metre putt to post 10-under and go ahead on the 72nd. It dipped under the hole, so Scott posted his second consecutive 66 and had to wait for more than an hour, just as Dufner did, to see if David Toms could join them in a playoff.

 Scott is the first Australian to win Colonial since Ian Baker-Finch in 1989, and has completed the sweep of the Texas tournaments on the PGA Tour, having previously won the Houston Open (2007), Byron Nelson Championship (2008) and the Texas Open (2010). Ironically he originally did not plan on playing at Colonial this week, but when he reached the No. 1 ranking, he put the tournament into his schedule. He wanted to test himself now that he is the hunted, rather than the hunter.

 Consider this a pass mark. On a tricky course where his driver was rendered virtually unusable, he picked his way around Colonial and was eight-under for the weekend, even before the two birdies of the playoff. With the season's next major, the United States Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina just three weeks away, Scott is at the top of his game again. He will be the favorite at Pinehurst, and rightly so.