PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Adam Scott seemed like the only person who wasn’t worried about the 35-inch length of his putter.
Scott was far more concerned that he had gone 36 tournaments over 21 months without winning anywhere in the world, the longest drought of his career. Nearly two years removed from No. 1 in the world, he was on the verge of falling out of the top 20 when he began his first big stretch of golf leading into the Masters.
Sunday in the Honda Classic turned out to be quite a statement.
Coming off a runner-up finish at Riviera last week, Scott closed with an even-par 70 in tough conditions at PGA National to hold off Sergio Garcia for a one-shot victory.
“I want to feel somewhat relevant out here when it comes to being one of the best players in the world,” Scott said. “That’s just down to my results. There’s no other way. 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.
“I like where things are at,” he said. “And hopefully, it’s a move in the right direction to be in that top 10 player in the world.”
His 26th victory worldwide took care of that. Scott finished at 9-under 271 and moved up to No. 9, and there’s little to suggest he’s about to stop there. This was his 18th consecutive round at par or better. Dating to the Japan Open last fall, he has finished out of the top 10 only twice in his last nine tournaments.
That’s about the time Scott switched back to the short putter for good.
“I’ve kind of said it the whole time. I don’t think it’s going to be that big a deal for me,” Scott said. “It’s some hard work, and I’m not afraid of that. I’m glad it’s going in the right direction, and I’ve putted pretty solid the last couple weeks, and I want to make sure that keeps going.”
Overlooked in the chatter about long putters is that Scott had won 18 times worldwide with a conventional putter, including The Players Championship and the Tour Championship. He went to a long putter that he anchored against his chest at the Match Play Championship in 2011, and he contended in the Masters two months later.
When he won the Masters in 2013, he was the fourth winner in six majors to use an anchored putting stroke.
Perhaps because he reached No. 1 in the world, Scott became the face of the long putters when a new rule that outlawed the anchored stroke kicked in this year. For those who wondered if his career was in jeopardy, check out that trophy he was holding Sunday.
Scott won in only his third start since the rule took effect, and his 10th event since he switched back to the conventional putter for good.
Asked if it was good to get that out of the way, the 35-year-old Aussie couldn’t resist.
“Probably good for everybody who likes talking about it, absolutely,” Scott said. “And therefore, good for me. Good for me because maybe we don’t have to go over it too much anymore. Again, it just reassures me I’m on the right track with the things I’m doing on the greens, and I’m just going to try and get better every week. And I think it’s in a great spot at the moment.
“If I can get better and better, then I like what’s to come.”
Scott opened with a 10-foot birdie putt that set the tone, and he seized control early on the back nine when Garcia missed a 3-foot par putt on the 11th hole. Scott followed with a 9-iron out of a bunker to 2 feet for birdie and a two-shot lead.
Garcia made birdie on the final hole for a 71, forcing Scott to convert his short par putt.
“He played really, really solid,” Garcia said. “I played with him the last two days, and he looked awesome. I know I can play better. That’s the good thing. Without feeling like I was swinging that great, I still managed to have a chance, so I’m happy with that.”
The final round was a duel between Scott and Garcia, though Justin Thomas and Blayne Barber both got within two shots at one point on the back nine. Barber didn’t make a birdie over the final seven holes and shot 70. Thomas took double bogey from the back bunker on the par-3 17th and closed with a 69. They tied for third, four shots behind.
It was the perfect way for Scott to head toward Augusta. He has two World Golf Championships before he even gets to the Masters.
“Hopefully,” Scott said, “I haven’t peaked too early.”