Sunday's final round of the Honda Classic was less about who would soar up the leaderboard with birdies than it was about the top contenders minimizing their mistakes at the brutal PGA National Champion Course.
After running a close second last week, Adam Scott bested Sergio Garcia by one stroke to claim victory in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It marked the Aussie's first PGA Tour win since 2014's event at Colonial, where he ascended to No. 1 in the world.
Check out the top finishers from the Honda Classic and the prize money they took home:
|2016 Honda Classic Leaderboard, Top Payouts|
|Pos.||Player||Scores||To Par||Prize Money|
Scott set the tone right away with a birdie at the par-four opening hole and added another birdie at the par-three fifth, which offset bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11.
Again, it was more about hanging on for dear life on a tough layout, and it helped Scott that he and Garcia were four shots clear of the rest of the field after 54 holes. Despite those advantageous circumstances, Garcia didn't apply any pressure on the front nine but did hold steady with nine pars.
Perhaps the best shot from the final pairing came from Scott on a fairway bunker at the 12th:
It wasn't until the 14th hole that Garcia picked up his first birdie of the round, though it was a momentous one and pulled him within one stoke of Scott entering the vaunted "Bear Trap" stretch of holes.
The defining stretch got the better of the Spaniard, who dropped shots at Nos. 16 and 17. That all but evaporated his hopes because Scott parred the 15th—the hole he quadruple-bogeyed Saturday—and bounced back from a three-putt bogey at 16 with a daring tee shot at the 71st hole:
Fox Sports' Shane Bacon reacted to the pivotal moment, hinting Scott's aggressive line may have been of the "good miss" variety:
Once Scott hit it in the fairway at the 18th, he all but wrapped up his 12th PGA Tour victory. Garcia did well to get up and down for birdie to at least add some drama, but Scott calmly drained a par putt from less than three feet out to secure the trophy.
Even though Garcia only shot one stroke worse than Scott on the day, he received his fair share of criticism as he failed to seal the deal.
No Laying Up recalled a humorous pop culture-sports hybrid moment to poke fun at Garcia's wayward iron at No. 17:
Sports Illustrated's Alan Shipnuck wasn't buying Golf Channel's narrative as Garcia hung tough:
Polarizing because of his outspoken nature and inability to win a major to date, Garcia likely didn't win any new fans at the Honda Classic despite a respectable finish.
American young gun Justin Thomas made an eagle at the par-five third to make some noise early and had a chance on the last nine, but he double-bogeyed the 17th to dash his hopes.
The analysis already began shifting to the year's first major when Scott locked up his win. ESPN.com's Jason Sobel believed Scott's demonstrated mettle may be an indicator of future success:
Kyle Porter of CBS Sports pointed out a relevant fact that should have golf fans excited for Augusta National:
One player who isn't among those Porter references is Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut at the Honda Classic. McIlroy has a chance to complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters Tournament in April but has a trove of in-form past Augusta champions to deal with.
Even more than what Scott's return to form means and his status as a prior green-jacket recipient is how well he's putting without the anchored flat iron.
Scott is the first on the PGA Tour to switch from the long putter to a standard one and win. He's actually putting better now, and that club has been what's prevented him from even greater prowess on the course in the past.
As the likes of McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler have ascended among the world's elite, Scott made a statement on Sunday. He showed he wants to be in that conversation, and there's no doubt he has the talent worthy of such company.
Garcia wasn't too pleased with his ball-striking but was classy in defeat and deferred credit to his playing competitor.
"I don't feel like my swing is anywhere near where I want it to be... but [Scott] played great. He played better than me," said Garcia, per Sobel.
Not only did this mark Scott's first win in nearly two years, but he also claimed his first victory as a father. He spoke on that afterwards, saying, per Sobel, "It's been a great transition, though trying at times to balance everything off the course."
If Scott is finding a way to balance father time with improvement on the golf course, there's no telling what's in store as he continues on a critical stretch of his prime at age 35.
Ian Poulter, who shot an even-par 70 on Sunday to finish tied for 43rd, reached out to Scott on Twitter.
"Big shout out to Adam Scott. Congratulations on a great win. Great playing, settled into family life and that putting stroke nicely," said Poulter.