PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Adam Scott is off to a blistering start as he begins his run-up to the Masters Tournament in early April and a bid for a second green jacket - and this time he’s doing it with a conventional putter.
A week after tying for second at Riviera in Los Angeles in just his second start of the year, Scott, 35, pulled away from Sergio Garcia at the end to win the Honda Classic by one shot Sunday.
Scott, who shared the 54-hole lead with Garcia at PGA National, made it past the par-3 15th hole this time without incident and closed with even-par 70 on a tough scoring day.
In his 66 on Saturday, Scott had a quadruple bogey 7 on the 15th hole, dumping two balls in the water.
On Sunday he made a routine par but said “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it.”
Scott finished at 9-under 271 – three shots lower than Padraig Harrington’s winning total last year – and tied for second in the field with 17 birdies. He also had an eagle.
“I’m thrilled at where my game’s at,” Scott said. “Hopefully I haven’t peaked too early. I know how to use the confidence of a win better now with my experience.
“Obviously, you want to go to the Masters feeling your game is in good shape,” Scott said. “The key for me now is managing myself through this next run of big events and up to the Masters.”
“I played with him the last two days and he deserved to win,” said Garcia, who added that Scott’s game “looked awesome.”
Garcia, who was coming off what he called “a terrible week” at Riviera when he shot 74-72 to miss the cut, closed with 71. He had two birdies after striking for five on Saturday in a round of 67. He’s been stuck on eight PGA Tour victories since 2012 and now has 15 runner-up finishes on the tour.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy with my week,” said Garcia, who still struggled with hitting draws off the tee. “So I can’t be disappointed with it because without hitting it great, I almost won. So it’s a great week.”
Former Auburn golfer Blayne Barber, who would have earned an invitation to the Masters with a victory, shot 70 and finished in a tie for third with Justin Thomas (69), four shots off the winning total. Thomas is already in the Masters.
Aiken resident Scott Brown, who is also trying to get into the Masters with a victory, had one birdie and shot 72 to finish in a tie for 10th place.
Scott, who won the Masters in 2013, now has 12 PGA Tour victories. His last one had came in The Colonial in 2014.
“There was certainly a sense of relief to win again after being a year and half without one,” Scott said.
He did it this time using a conventional putter instead of a belly putter after the ban on anchoring went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year.
In majors, Scott had used the belly putter to win the Masters, to finish second at the 2012 British Open, finish tied for third at the 2006 PGA Championship and finish tied for fourth at the 2015 U.S. Open.
“It was pretty good,” Scott said of his work on the green with the conventional putter. “It just reassures me that I’m on the right track with the things I’m doing on the greens and I’m just going to try to get better every week.
“If I can get better and better, then I like what’s to come.”
Sunday’s final round wasn’t a shootout between Scott and Garcia, as was expected after they combined for 11 birdies on Saturday, but no one ever got with two shots of the duo.
Scott birdied the first hole and never lost the lead.
“That definitely relaxed me,” he said. “I got off to a dream start.”
He led Garcia by two shots after five holes and again led by two after 12, but Garcia cut his lead to one after a birdie on No. 14. The lead went back to two when Garcia made bogey on the 17th hole, but he birdied the final hole to finish one shot back.