Adam Scott has Tiger’s old caddie and Tiger’s old swing, that Tiger’s old coach, Hank Haney, calls “the best swing there is” in golf.
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Scott even got back together with his old girlfriend, who — like Tiger’s old wife – happens to be a former Swedish nanny. And now the personable Australian with the movie star looks has moved up to No. 2 in the world rankings — behind you-know-who — after winning The Barclays just like the old Tiger used to — by waiting for everyone else to wilt — on an action-packed Sunday.
If all of that wasn’t enough to make Woods feel a little uneasy, Scott snatched the unlikeliest of victories from under his nose.
Woods had to settle for second at scenic Liberty National after his birdie putt from 27 feet on the final green to force a playoff stopped just inches from the hole.
It was the most anti-climactic of Tiger moments; he’s made his bones by making putts just like this one. He never leaves them short; Nike can’t make ads when the putts are short.
“I hit a good putt. Thought I made it,” said Woods.
In golf, there are no stories on scorecards, only numbers, but Woods will wonder what might have been had he not been bothered by a bad back since arriving here from Florida.
Each day, the discomfort — which he blamed on sleeping on a hotel mattress that was too soft — took its toll, though never more than on the 13th hole on Sunday.
Woods, who said he had felt a twinge on the hole before, had just 250 yards into the green of the par 5.
He was going to carve a 5-wood from left to right — his favored shot shape these days — and set up a probable birdie. But he suffered a spasm on his downswing that sent his shot flying into a lake well left of the green.
So intense was the pain that a wincing Woods fell to his knees.
But there was more pain in store, of the more lasting variety.
Woods couldn’t save par and then added another bogey on the par-4 15th.
His goose looked cooked until he found a way to make birdies on the 16th and 17th before ultimately falling short on the last.
“Proud of my man for fighting back,” Woods’ girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, wrote on Twitter. “He’s the toughest person I know. #Fighter #Nothingcanholdhimdown.”
The dramatic finale set up an intriguing round two of the playoffs at TPC Boston beginning on Friday.
Woods, Scott and Phil Mickelson — who rebounded on Sunday with a 65 that catapulted him into a tie for sixth — are scheduled to play together in the first two rounds of the Deutsche Bank Championship. But will Woods play?
He’s No. 1 in FedEx Cup points and could skip the tournament to rest his back without ceding too much ground. However, his foundation is the main beneficiary of the tournament, and he already has been forced by an elbow injury to skip the other event that benefits his charity, the AT&T National in July.
When asked late Sunday if he would play, Woods dodged the question.
“That’s all hypothetical right now,” he said. “I just got off, and I’m not feeling my best right now.”
Scott, obviously, felt no pain as he lifted the trophy and claimed the $1.44 million check.
As he prepared to return to Manhattan for what might have been a long night of celebration, the 33-year-old was still smiling — and marveling — at the fact he had won.
Just a day before, he’d been playing, he said, “like a dog” before making three late birdies to salvage a semi-respectable 72 in his third round. He was only trying to finish as high as he could on Sunday.
But he did what Woods used to do in his prime — post a score and put pressure on the leaders — and his 5-under-par 66 was somehow enough on a pleasant Sunday in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
He was, it should be noted, ably assisted by the implosion of the three men who began the final round atop the leaderboard: Gary Woodland (73), Matt Kuchar (78) and Kevin Chappell (76).
Justin Rose made a late run but unforgivably three-putted the final green from about 20 feet when two putts would have forced a playoff.
“I started today on a wing and a prayer, I thought,” Scott said. “I played a good round of golf, but I didn’t think it was good enough. But I guess it’s different playing an hour-and-a-half in front of the leaders and the guys who have been under pressure all day than when you’re out there — and I know how they feel.
“When the pressure is on you to close out, it’s much harder and the holes become much harder and shots are far more crucial. I feel like I’ve been given a bit of a gift, but I’ll take it.”
Of course he will.
It’s his second win of the season — to go with the Masters — and should he go on to win the FedEx Cup will not only be $10 million richer but a rival to Woods for Player of the Year.
It’s certainly been quite a turnaround for a player they used to say was the next Tiger.
I used to think the label was unfair. But maybe it just came 10 years too soon?