If you have been following the PGA Tour, you could be excused for feeling just a touch of Millennial fatigue. Recently golf has sounded different, with talk of digital engagements and social media reach, and looked different too, with high-tops and heavy weights. The 20-somethings, who won half of the Tour events last year, stayed hot in January to seize the top four spots in the World Ranking. It was their world; everyone else was just taking up space.
Well, maybe not so fast.
“It’s amazing in a couple weeks how quickly things turn around,” Adam Scott, 35, said on Sunday after shooting an even-par 70 to hang on for a one-stroke victory over Sergio Garcia, 36, at the Honda Classic. “I’ve played really well the last couple of weeks, and a couple of those guys who were so outstanding last summer haven’t played that great in the last couple of weeks. You know, you feel like the gap is really not that big at all.”
Not that the kiddie corps lacked representation: Justin Thomas, 22, and Blayne Barber, 26, tied for third, four back. But those weren’t the “guys” Scott was referring to. He meant Rory McIlroy, 26, the 2012 Honda Classic champ, who shot 72-72 to miss the cut by a shot. Also: Rickie Fowler, 27, the hottest player in the game after winning in Abu Dhabi and nearly capturing the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Fowler shot 66-66 to take the 36-hole lead at PGA National. Alas, his 74-71 on the weekend left him in a tie for sixth with the indefatigable Vijay Singh, 53.
The other half of the so-called Big Four sat this one out. Jason Day, 28, has fought illness and looked out of sorts this year. World No. 1 Jordan Spieth, 22, admitted to being worn out from traveling around the globe and has played mostly tired golf since his romp at the Hyundai TOC in early January.
All of which has opened the door for Scott and his tribe of fellow 30-somethings to stage a mini-revival, no high-tops required, as we head into this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral in Miami.
Since the Hyundai there has been only one 20-something winner, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (Phoenix), who turned 24 last Thursday. There has been precious little talk of the vaunted high school Class of 2011. Fabian Gomez, 37, led the pushback with a win at the Sony Open, followed by Jason Dufner, 38 (CareerBuilder), Brandt Snedeker, 35 (Farmers Insurance), Vaughn Taylor, 39 (AT&T Pebble Beach), Bubba Watson, 37 (Northern Trust), and Scott. They’re not kids; they have kids.
“I really wanted to win a lot,” said Scott, whose wife, Marie Kojzar, gave birth to the couple’s first child, Bo Vera Scott, just over a year ago. “I want to feel somewhat relevant still out here when it comes to being one of the best players in the world. That’s just down to my results. You can talk it in your head and try and build yourself up as much as you want, but at some point you’re going to have to have the results to actually prove it and achieve.”
Scott’s 12th Tour win broke a nearly two-year drought, and has made him—with Watson and Spieth—one of the short-listed favorites to win the Masters, which is just six weeks away. He overcame a watery quadruple bogey on Saturday to become the first player to win with a quad on his card since Phil Mickelson (yeah, go figure) at the 2009 Tour Championship.
More important, Scott is the first to ditch the long wand and win since the anchoring ban took effect on New Year’s Day. In triumphing with a standard-length putter for the first time since the 2010 Singapore Open, he hopes to have finally silenced or at least quieted the chorus of unsolicited advice that has been ringing in his ears since the USGA and the R&A announced the ban in 2013.
“There was a gentleman from Canada who was very persistent, and sending me audiotapes with his secrets,” said Scott, who jarred a 15-footer to birdie the 1st hole on Sunday and on the week was 23rd in strokes gained putting. (For the 2015 season, he was 158th in the category.) “My dad’s enjoyed listening to them. Hopefully it’s helped him.”
Scott has a few gray hairs, but otherwise he looks no different than the guy who burst onto the scene with a victory at the 2003 Deutsche Bank Championship. He is young enough to joke about old guys like his father needing all the help they can get, but old enough to more clearly see himself as that old guy. He calls it his “smaller window” of remaining daylight on Tour—a nod to what the politicians call the fierce urgency of now.
And so he is working hard. With his T-2 at the Northern Trust, his win at the Honda and a stroke that looks nothing like it did in 2015, the golden age of Adam Scott may have only just begun.