31 Jan 2021 | Professional golf |

Rollercoaster tests, but can't break Scott

by Mark Hayes

Adam Scott endures a rare day of no rhythm with his trusty driver at Torrey Pines.
Adam Scott endures a rare day of no rhythm with his trusty driver at Torrey Pines.

Adam Scott can view his Farmers Insurance Open position and assess it one of two polar opposite ways.

The veteran Australian will start the final round tomorrow at Torrey Pines within two strokes of a lead shared by Mexican Carlos Ortiz and controversy magnet Patrick Reed at 10 under.

But on a day when Reed put himself in the rules crosshairs yet again, both he and Scott limped in to the clubhouse having ceded powerful positions with a string of late bogeys.

Remarkably for Scott, the Queenslander who has made a career of driving with laser precision, he didn’t hit a fairway – or green on the par-threes off the tee – on the entire back nine.

He’d earlier paid a hefty price for a tugged drive on the par-4 fourth hole, ending there with a double-bogey.

But when he hit a spectacular second to 1m on the par-5 ninth and cashed in for eagle, his birdies on the second, third, sixth and seventh holes were effectively validated as he set out in chase of Reed.

The American had similarly lit up the front nine and vaulted to 13 under by the time his round erupted into a social media bushfire on the 10th hole when he took relief from a ball he said had embedded itself when his second from 148m ended in partially below ground.

Video evidence shows the ball had, in fact, bounced forward after landing.

But Reed, who has been at the centre of several rules problems in the past few seasons, was cleared of any wrongdoing by US PGA Tour officials after his round.

He explained to them that he had asked his playing partners and caddies, plus a nearby volunteer and that none had seen the ball bounce.

Social media was alight – including from some of his fellow professionals – with criticism that he should not have moved the ball until his marker or an official had assessed the scene.

But Reed said the PGA official post-round said he had acted in a “textbook” manner in line with expectations and not imposed any penalty.

The 2018 Masters champion made par there, but soon made four bogeys of his own and relied on a closing birdie to get back to a share of the lead.

Scott had seemed likely to be the chief beneficiary of Reed’s stumble and led outright briefly before another penalty drop – his second after the fourth hole – on the 14th became the catalyst for three bogeys in four holes.

His 72 was even by name only and his closing stumble to eight under left him alongside Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns and Lanto Griffin in third place on a crowded leaderboard that features 16 players within four shots of the lead.

“It felt like 80 at one point and it felt like it was going to be 67 at one point. It's a hard golf course and I got a little out of sorts coming in there, which is disappointing,” Scott said.

“But I'm a couple back and got a chance tomorrow.

“If I can just find about 16 really good holes and limit the damage out here, I think I've got a good shot at it.

“It can turn around quick, there's opportunities if you hit good shots and you get penalised if you hit bad ones.

“So I've got to find a bag full of good ones tomorrow. I'm looking forward to having a crack at it.”

Of the other Australians, Cam Davis is again handy after his third round was kickstarted by a hole-out from 90m on the par-four second hole for eagle.

The Sydneysider was more consistent than brilliant after that magical moment, though, and signed for a third consecutive sub-par round – his 71 leaving him in a share of 20th at four under.

Defending champion Marc Leishman climbed a couple of places to 27th at three under despite an even-par 72.

Rhein Gibson (73 for one under), Cam Percy (73 for even par) and Matt Jones (74 for one over) are all close enough to make a big cheque, but are too far back to challenge for the title.

Meanwhile, on the European Tour, there will be no repeat of Australian heroics at this year's Dubai Desert Classic.

Paul Casey fired a brilliant third-round 64 to vault to the lead at 15 under, one clear of Scottish left-hander Bob McIntyre but with the field strung out behind.

Defending champion Lucas Herbert carded an even-par 72 to sit alongside fellow Aussie Wade Ormsby at four under, in a share of 29th.

Jason Scrivener, two shots further back in a share of 42nd, is the only other Aussie to make the cut.



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