Adam Scott has become the first Australian to pass $50 million in career earnings on the PGA TOUR but it’s what his solo second at the Farmers Insurance Open signifies that has the Queenslander most excited.
A new grip and tactic of leaving the flagstick in paid immediate dividends on the greens as Scott converted spectacular iron play into four straight birdies to round out the tournament, falling two shots shy of world No.1 Justin Rose at 21-under par.
The cheque for outright second of $766,800 – his best result since winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March 2016 – boosted his career earnings on the PGA TOUR to $50,184,193 to sit seventh on the all-time list.
Torrey Pines once again proved to be fertile ground for the Australians in the field with two-time champion Jason Day’s 5-under 67 in the final round lifting him into a tie for fifth and Cameron Smith delivering the round of the day – a 7-under 65 – to climb 39 spots and into a tie for ninth.
It was also a strong finish for Matt Jones whose tie for 13th was his best finish since a tie for 12th at the John Deere Classic last July while Marc Leishman (T43), John Senden and Cameron Davis (both T57) also qualifying for the weekend.
Trailing Rose by three strokes at the start of the day, Scott knew that even his best might not be good enough to reign in the in-form Englishman and took until late to convert opportunities into birdies.
An “inconceivable miss” from inside two feet cost Scott a shot at the par-4 5th, earning it back with a birdie at the ninth as he made the turn in even par.
A laser-like 4-iron at the par-3 11th wasn’t converted and another missed opportunity at the par-5 13th meant that he failed to make up ground on the runaway leader.
Four birdies coming home – including a brilliant approach to the par-4 17th – was a great way to complete his second start of the year and injects some confidence as the PGA TOUR builds to the run of big tournaments starting with The Players Championship in March.
“It was a bit of a grind leading up to the (US) PGA Championship last year, and to get back in contention was definitely good for the confidence,” Scott said of his third-place finish at Bellerive Country Club last August.
“And the other thing I took from it was it felt like that's where I'm meant to be. I felt like I was in the right place and I wasn't worried about being in contention.
“I've done it a lot. It's just been a bit of a grind to get my game back up to this level, but now I'm starting to see it a bit more frequent and that's good for the confidence, too.
“I’m looking forward to all the great golf that's coming in the next two and a half months.”
Defending the title he won in a playoff last year, Day moved up 11 spots on Sunday thanks to a 5-under 67, one of the highlights a booming 3-wood from 288 yards at the 608-yard par-5 13th.
That set up one of six birdies of the day and highlighted the areas he needs to improve prior to his next start at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am from February 7.
“You take a lot of what you do on the South (Course) away,” Day said post-round.
“I know I need to go back and work on some wedges; my wedge game hasn’t been as solid as it should be.
“That’s one part that I’m going to look forward to trying to get better.
“I’ve got Pebble coming up, another good place that I play well at.”
Coming off a tie for 22nd at the Sony Open, Smith too showed that his game is trending in the right direction, a second shot from 245 yards to just outside 12 feet delivering an eagle at the final hole for his second top-10 of the wraparound season.
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