ADAM SCOTT had his chances for a second consecutive US PGA Tour win but it was young Japanese sensation Hideki Matsuyama who overcame the odd happenings at The Memorial Tournament this week.
Scott will no doubt hang on to his world No.1 ranking at least a little longer following his T4 finish at Muirfield Village in Ohio but he was perhaps just a smidgin away from cementing the spot in glorious fashion.
Reigning US Masters champions Bubba Watson looked most likely to win the Jack Nicklaus hosted iconic event over the closing two rounds but when he, Scott and Matsuyama drew level at 14 under atop the leaderboard with just a handful of holes to go, things started to go awry for all of them.
Clubhouse leader Kevin Nah was in the TV host commentary booth at the time and all present gave only lip service to the thought that he might have a score (13-under) that would actually contend. Then things, as all those commentating and watching seemed to agree, starting going “strange”.
Watson was sailing along in his usual carefree “Bubba Golf” way before he jerked a rescue club off the tee on the 14 into some thick rough for a resulting bogey.
He followed that with a wayward drive on the par 5 15th that landed in someone’s backyard somewhere in the next county. After that resulted in a double bogey he just wasn’t the same carefree Bubba golfer.
“The bad decision,” Watson commented later on why his round had gone south. “Trying to be a hero,” he said.
Scott, armed with his new No.1 status and brimming with confidence, had reached the top of the leaderboard at the seemingly perfect moment with a birdie on the 11th. He looked like he could just cruise to another win.
But on the 184 yard par three 12th the normally impeccable ball striker came up short of the green and plugged in the bank beside a water hazard. He had to take a drop and the resulting double bogey saw a three stroke turnaround on the leaderboard. Scott bounced back with his sixth birdie of the day on the 13th and with the others imploding around him still wasn’t out of it.
At the 14th it was another bogey when his approach plugged in the left greenside bunker but it was some terrible luck on the 15th that was the real stab in the heart. Scott’s third shot on the par 5 hit the very bottom of the flagstick and the ball looked like it could have either jammed in the hole or ricochet out. It chose to do the latter and spun back off the green and when Scott failed to get it up and down it was yet another bogey.
The 16th was another par 3 miss when he failed to par from a greenside bunker and at 10-under it was all over for the Australian.
Meanwhile, 22 year old Matsuyama was having his own problems but struck back on the 18th green with an unprecedented fourth birdie in a row for the tournament on that hole.
That put the Japanese golfer equal with Na on 13-under and forced a playoff.
Matsuyama put his tee shot on the first playoff hole into a fairway bunker but Na, who has been cooling his heels for two hours waiting for the final groups to finish, did worse and ended up in a creek, one of this very tough course’s many water features.
In the end, a very good scrambling par was enough for Matsuyama to live up to his tremendous potential and take his first US PGA Tour victory.
Na was prevented from taking what would have been his second Tour victory, but the idiosyncratic American has happily seemingly gotten over his painful pre-shot routine issues.
Of the other Aussies taking part, Jason Day (74), Aaron Baddeley (72) and Marc Leishman (73) tied for 37th on 3-under.
Scott will sit out this week’s event, the FedEx St. Jude Classic at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, and prepare for the 2014 US Open next week at Pinehurst.2014 Memorial Tournament Leaderboard