Scott wins Australian Masters
Adam Scott has successfully defended his Australian Masters title but it was far from the procession most expected at Royal Melbourne today as Matt Kuchar challenged strongly and then stumbled with the trophy in his grasp.
Having started with a four-stroke lead, US Masters champion Scott increased that buffer to five when he birdied the third hole but firstly his playing partner Vijay Singh and then later Kuchar ensured the Queenslander would not have it all his own way.
World number eight Kuchar led by two strokes when he birdied 15 and Scott double-bogeyed the 14th in what appeared to be a costly three-shot swing for the last-start Australia PGA Championship winner.
But Scott responded with a birdie at 15 and found himself level again moments later when Kuchar bogeyed 16 before Scott's solid pars over the final three holes were enough to get him home as Kuchar's double bogey at the 72nd hole cost him dearly.
With the World Cup to come this week at the same venue, Scott will then head to Sydney for the Australian Open in December looking to match Robert Allenby's 2005 effort when he won the Australian PGA, Masters and Open in the same year.
Scott could also threaten Tiger Woods' standing as the world's number one golfer if he continues his hot run of form at the World Cup and then the Australian Open.
Scott's final-round 71 saw him finish the tournament at 14 under, two shots ahead of his American rival Kuchar (68), who had been six under for the day through 15, while veteran Fijian Singh finished with a 71 of his own and outright third on minus 10.
Singh got to within two strokes of Scott's lead during the final round but three successive three-putt bogeys from the 7th cost him all momentum and the 50-year-old's charge was all but over from that point.
First-round leader Nick Cullen, whose twin Dan played one Test for Australia in 2006, finished an impressive week with a 72 and fourth on nine under, three clear of Kiwi Ryan Fox (73) and local Matt Griffin (75).
Victorian Marc Leishman signed for an impressive 65 to share seventh with Aron Price (68), Jason Scrivener (69), Mathew Goggin (69), Geoff Ogilvy (69) and Zimbabwean Brendon De Jonge (73) on five under.
Joint 36-hole leader Nathan Holman faded on the final day, shooting 78 to finish 15th on minus three, while Jarrod Lyle's comeback to competitive golf after a second battle with leukaemia saw him close with a 79 and a tie for 57th on plus eight.
With superb iron play over the first three days, Scott threatened to shoot a low score like the 63 Singh managed on Saturday but during the final round he had to regularly scramble on plenty of occasions, minimising the damage to two bogeys at the fifth and seventh holes.
There were other times he managed clutch pars and shaved the hole with another host of birdie putts while at 17 he struck the flag with his approach but it was his steadiness under pressure over the closing holes that would prove crucial as Kuchar was unable to close it out.
"It was a little shaky out there, I have to say today, but I felt okay," Scott told sportal.com.au.
"I just felt like I was around the mark (and) I wasn't ever in too much trouble.
"I think even if I was one shot behind I knew there was going to be an opportunity down 15 and I just needed to hang in there.
"I managed to just hang in long enough."
The Australian admitted that did just enough on the final day to capitalise on earlier rounds of 67, 66 and 66 as he eventually shot 71 to beat Kuchar by two shots.
"Sometimes you kind of win a little bit ugly and all the good stuff I'd done in the first three rounds counted for a lot," Scott said.
"Even though it wasn't the prettiest golf today, like I'd played the first three (rounds), there was enough good stuff to keep me in there and I hit good shots coming down the stretch when I had to and that again is important stuff.
"I take something out of every round I play and I think I can take some good and some bad out of today and learn from a couple of mistakes.
"It's a good experience, I made some errors playing with the lead or in contention and I got away with it today but I will have to learn and not do it next time."