PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — As good as these guys are at a game so irrational and irritating, they don’t often overcome quadruple bogeys. Not to shoot a good score, certainly not to win.
Whether it’s the deflation of making such a poor score on one hole, or the simple math that says you can’t give up 4 shots to the rest of the field, bouncing back from such a big number typically proves to be all but impossible.
And so there was Adam Scott left to ponder what could have been at PGA National on Saturday, but still in position to win his first tournament in 20 months despite finding water twice late in the third round.
The scorecard says 66, and nobody else went lower at the Honda Classic than Scott, who nonetheless had to answer more questions about the negative than the positive.
Scott could only smile.
“Well, what else can you do?” he said. “It took me five goes to get a ball dry.”
The offending hole was the par-3 15th, the start of what is PGA National’s over-hyped 3-hole “Bear Trap.”
To that point, Scott led Sergio Garcia by three strokes, and the rest of the field was languishing. Second-round leader Rickie Fowler had not made a bogey through the first two rounds; he didn’t make a birdie Saturday and shot 74. Jimmy Walker, who tied for the lead early in the round, went on to shoot 79.
Scott and Garcia, however, got hot and were pulling away, with birdies at the 12th and 13th holes. The Australian reached 12 under par. He had made seven birdies and no bogeys to that point. Scott shot another par at the 14th and was just four holes away from an insane round.
Then the 15th.
“It got me good today,” said Scott, whose 6-iron ballooned in the air, got caught in the wind and fell into the water. From the drop zone, Scott fidgeted with where to play, then saw another ball find the water.
“It was looking pretty good to me,” he said. “Wind must have laid down a little bit. Just one of those ones where it’s the wrong time to make an error, especially with the first shot. That’s the real error.
“Then to compound it is not good, so pretty costly. But fortunately, had a couple of shots to spare. Hopefully it won’t cost me too big in the grand scheme of things.”
Scott actually fell behind by a stroke when Garcia parred the hole.
“It can happen,” Garcia said. “It’s as simple as that. Obviously I had my problems. I had a really, really difficult long putt on 15. So I was thinking about that. But it’s never nice to watch that and he was playing so well. But it can happen to anyone at any time. I think he still managed to recover from that well, which was good to see.”
Scott did bounce back from a poor drive at the 16th to make par, then stuck a 6-iron shot to close range at the par-3 17th, rolling in the birdie putt to retake the lead — his eighth birdie of the day.
But when he couldn’t convert at the par-5 18th — while Garcia did — the duo was tied heading into the final round.
And it was difficult not to think that Scott had let a lot of people back into the tournament, or at the very least made the task of winning for the first time since May of 2014 all the more challenging.
“I’ve experienced things along those lines plenty of times in this game,” he said. “I really didn’t hit too many bad shots to make a 7. That’s how challenging holes like 15, 16 and 17 are. I grinded out a 4 on 16 after a slopped tee shot, and then back to hitting really good shots on 17.
“It’s what you have to do to stay in golf tournaments. It could easily fall apart, and go from a commanding position to struggling to be in the tournament tomorrow. That’s what you have to do, just keep grinding until the round’s over.”
Scott, who climbed to No. 1 in the world following his last victory at the Colonial in 2014, has slowly slid back, falling to 16th late last year and getting to 13th following a runner-up finish last week at the Northern Trust Open.
His golf has been excellent these past two weeks, but as Scott so painfully proved, it takes one bad shot for it all to unravel. The PGA Tour had difficulty finding the last time a player won a tournament after making a quadruple bogey at any point in the event. Two rare examples: David Toms winning at Quail Hollow in 2003 despite a quad in the final round and Phil Mickelson winning the 2009 Tour Championship with a quad in the first round.
Then again, starting the day, Scott would have assuredly taken the 66 for which he eventually signed.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s a great score, 66 is a hell of a score around here, and I’m very happy with that. If it was four bogeys and eight birdies, I’d still be really happy with that.”
A humbling game, golf, even on a day when you shoot a score that nobody else could better.