Scott survives Howell's early charge

Updated: June 29, 2004, 2:37 PM ET
Associated Press

POTOMAC, Md. -- The Australian with Greg Norman's coach and Norman's old caddie felt a Norman-like collapse coming on.

No worries, mate. Adam Scott survived just fine.

After his lead was cut from seven strokes to two on the back nine, Scott held off a challenge from Charles Howell III and took a four-shot victory Sunday at the Booz Allen Classic.

"I was getting a little nervy there on the back nine," the 23-year-old Aussie said.

Scott closed with a 68 for a 21-under-par 263 total, tying the tournament and TPC at Avenel course record set by Billy Andrade and Jeff Sluman in 1991, when Andrade won in a playoff. Scott also broke the 36-hole Avenel record Friday and tied the 54-hole mark Saturday.

But Howell made it close, for a while. Trailing by seven shots after six holes, he made five straight birdies starting at No. 11. Meanwhile, Scott was in trouble when his tee shot at No. 13 landed on a cart path.

Scott recovered to save par, followed with back-to-back birdies and then saved another par with a tough 11-foot putt at the 16th to avoid tying Norman and three others for the biggest final-day collapse in PGA Tour history.

"It's nice to be able to respond to a little bit of pressure," said Scott, who started the day with a six-shot lead over Olin Browne. "I also would have liked to have been out in front a lot more all day. ... My putting really carried me to the last five holes. That's how you win golf tournaments -- is with the putter."

Howell, who broke the 18-hole record with a 61 on Thursday, finally faded when he three-putted the 17th and finished with a 65 for a 267 total. Defending champion Rory Sabbatini shot a 66 to finish third with a 269, six strokes back.

"Starting as far back as I did today, it's nice to play golf with nothing to lose," Howell said. "That's the mentality I had. I knew it was going to take a great round for me and take a little bit of help from Adam, and it looks like it got pretty darned close there for a bit."

It is the third PGA Tour victory and seventh worldwide win for Scott, who won the Players Championship in March. At No. 15 in the world, Scott was by far the highest ranked player in the field, and he clinically handled a course he had never seen until last Tuesday.

The only players to lose after taking a six-stroke lead into the final day on the PGA Tour are Bobby Cruickshank, Gay Brewer, Hal Sutton and Scott's boyhood idol Norman, who had the infamous Sunday meltdown to lose to Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters.

Tony Navarro was carrying Norman's bag at Augusta that day, and Butch Harmon was Norman's coach. Both now work with Scott, and Navarro made a big call Sunday when he stopped Scott from pulling the driver out of the bag at the short par-4 13th. Scott hit a 3-iron instead and birdied the hole.

"For a caddie to say that on the 14th hole on Sunday when you have a two-shot lead is pretty big," Scott said. "But that's why he's one of the best caddies out there."

Scott led Howell by seven after making a third straight birdie at the fifth hole, but the gap started to narrow when Scott overshot the green at the par-3 ninth and made bogey.

Howell then birdied Nos. 11-15 with putts of 9, 20, 13, 11 and 18 feet. Scott had the cart path adventure at No. 13, one of the easiest holes on the course. After three failed drops, Scott placed the ball on a slope and made a nice shot to the green -- but then he three-putted for par.

Then came birdies at the 14th and 15th, putting Scott back in command in what no doubt will be one of many duels between good friends who are considered two of the best young players today.

"There's no question that Charles and I will be out there playing against each other for a long time," Scott said. "It may be the start of a bit of rivalry on the golf course, but we are pretty good friends."

The record scores and relatively good weather over four days made for an appropriate way to bid a temporary farewell to the Avenel course. The tournament will be held at nearby Congressional Country Club next year while Avenel gets an overhaul.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press