Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion coming off triumphs in his past two starts, tries for his third win in a row starting at the PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The annual showdown at Bay Hill will see the 35-year-old Australian join Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and American Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds at the par-72 Orlando layout. Scott settled for second at Riviera near Los Angeles, then won at PGA National and at the World Golf Championships event at Doral in back-to-back weeks.
After spending a week off at home in the Bahamas and not touching a club for five days, Scott returned to competition late last night. “I don’t really know how long I can keep it up,” Scott said of his sizzling play. “You’ve got to take advantage of it while it’s there, that’s the big thing, and I feel confident I can play well this week. Nothing feels any different than when I left Doral and I’d like to get myself in that position to win again this week and keep it running. To use examples is not the best but, you know, Tiger (Woods) kept running for about 10 years.”
Woods, a 14-time major champion still sidelined indefinitely after back surgery, has won eight times at Bay Hill. A victory this week would make Scott the first player to win three consecutive starts since Rory McIlroy in 2014, when the Northern Ireland star won the British Open, took the WGC Bridgestone Invitational two weeks later and added the PGA Championship a week after that.
Scott said that he could feel his game reaching higher levels and has pushed to make the most of that, especially with the Masters—the year’s first major tournament—coming up next month at Augusta National.
“My game was falling into a good spot and I really wanted to take advantage because there were some memories of the last couple of years where I didn’t quite,” Scott said. “Certainly last year even the few times I was in contention didn’t win, so that was kind of fresh on my mind.”
Scott was third at Bay Hill in 2004 and in 2014. He seized a seven-shot lead after 36 holes two years ago and led by three after 54 holes but shot 76 to lose.
In his earlier Florida starts, Scott edged Spain’s Sergio Garcia by one stroke at the Honda Classic and edged two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson by a shot at Doral. Scott will be tested by some of the world’s top-rated players this week, including second ranked McIlroy and world number three Jason Day of Australia.
But Scott is 35-under par over his past 12 rounds. “When you are in that position, it’s almost automatic that you get into contention,” McIlroy said of Scott. “You are almost on autopilot that you turn up the tournaments and it’s not like you’re nonchalant or complacent in any way. But if you play your game, you’re going to have a chance come Sunday. Then it’s about being mentally the toughest on the back nine on Sunday to get the job done. “He’s playing, very, very well. He seems very confident with his overall game.”
McIlroy has shown strong form as well, standing two off the lead at Riviera before a closing 75 took him out of contention. At Doral, he led by three shots entering the final round but shot 74 to share third, two adrift of Scott.
It’s a good position for Scott as the only Australian to ever capture a green jacket ponders his second Masters crown in four seasons. “Hopefully I haven’t peaked too early, but the point is to try to get yourself ready for every tournament you play and managing your schedule and managing how much energy you spend practicing and playing and then understanding what it takes out of you when you’re playing in contention and then resting, getting ready to go again,” Scott said.
“It’s just a matter of finding that formula for you. I’m always trying to ask myself the question and be honest do I need rest, do I need practice, what suits me right now.”
Adam Scott has won at PGA National and at the World Golf Championships event at Doral in back-to-back weeks. (AFP)