|Aussie Adam Scott outduels Appleby for SHO title - April 01, 2007
BY ED FOWLER
Let the record show that Adam Scott won the 2007 Shell Houston Open by three shots. No surprise there. He was the highest ranked player in the field and Aussies win in Houston more often than anyplace else in America. Besides, Scott had a two-shot lead with two holes to play.
That is not to say, however, that his triumph lacked drama. Seldom has a three-shot victory left so many lumps in throats.
Moments after Scott’s countryman Stuart Appleby, the defending champion, rolled in a birdie putt on No. 17 to pull within one, the fifth-ranked player in the world inexplicably hooked his drive on the final hole into the lake.
“All of Houston to the right,” he would reflect a half-hour later, “and I hit it to the left.”
Scott was not waving a white flag, however. Appleby had parked his tee ball in a fairway bunker. Scott had landed in that trap twice in his first three rounds and knew that par was no gimme, especially with the hole cut on the left side of the green “with the flag hanging out over the water.”
Sure enough, before the sun-splashed gallery could finish gasping over Scott’s gaffe, Appleby went wet and wild himself.
But wait. First, Jeff Maggert, the third man in the final group who was well out of contention and on his way to a 74, splashed his approach to join the beach party. Then Appleby flipped his bunker shot into the drink and a stunned Scott didn’t have to go walkabout after all.
He took a drop and wisely played away from the pin to the center of the green, leaving himself 45 feet for a two-putt bogey, which would be plenty good enough with Appleby looking like bogey at best and nobody else close.
But wait. Just to make things interesting, he rapped in the putt for par. Years in the future, someone will look at his card and swear he cruised on in with his closing 66 and his three-shot bulge. In fact, said a relieved Scott, “I was actually trying to lag it down there but it went right in the middle. I was pretty happy for it to be over with because it was getting pretty messy there with all three of us in the water.”
Appleby wound up with double-bogey to show for his aquatic adventure and another slap in the face when Bubba Watson, playing in the group behind him, banged in a 12-footer for birdie to tie him for second.
Take away all that and it was just another routine Aussie victory in Aussie-friendly Houston, where Antipodeans win more often than just about any place but Melbourne. Scott is the sixth Australian to win in Houston, following Bruce Devlin, Bruce Crampton, David Graham, Robert Allenby and Appleby. Crampton and Appleby are both two-time champions. The eight victories are the most on the PGA Tour by Aussies at any event except the British Open, which the boys from the billabong have won nine times.
The year before, the first at the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club, Appleby had led wire-to-wire and sauntered in with a six-stroke victory. This year, he decided to try a little suspense. Both he and Scott began the final lap 11-under and shot 4-under 32 on the front. They both played the next four holes one-under, then Appleby finished bogey, birdie, bogey, birdie, double-bogey. He missed short putts on both par-3s for the two bogeys.
Scott’s improbable par save on the last hole meant that he played the final 36 without a bogey, launching himself toward Augusta, Ga., with his fifth PGA Tour victory and second in his last six starts. The talented 26-year-old is defending champion of the Tour Championship.
In what turned into a birdie binge after rain softened the course on Saturday morning and weekend winds fall away to nothing, Scott sliced the top $990,000 off the $5.5 million purse. Then he did his interview in a building named for the late Dick Harmon, his friend and the brother of his swing coach, Butch Harmon.
“Maybe Dick was at my side coming down the 18th today,” he said.