In PGA Tour vernacular, players often speak of “we” in post-round discussions, unconsciously including their caddies: “We played 7-iron,” or “We thought we had the right club . . . ”
Some observers find this a little odd. After all, it’s the player, not the caddie who is swinging the club. But there are times when the caddie plays a huge role in a player’s success and justifies the “we.”
When Adam Scott reached for his driver on the 14th tee June 27, his lead dwindling at the Booz Allen Classic, caddie Tony Navarro proved his worth. Scott figured he might be able to drive the short par 4, but Navarro would have none of it.
“He was pretty serious about that,” Scott said. “So I took a 3-iron out.”
The rare veto paid off. Scott’s tee shot wasn’t the greatest, but it left him in position to birdie the hole and get his lead back to three shots. He then birdied the next hole, holding off a challenge from Charles Howell III for a four-shot victory in the Booz Allen Classic.
Scott led by six shots at the start of the final round. The Aussie was up by seven after his first five holes, but Howell made five consecutive birdies on the back nine to make it a contest.
“I was getting a little nervy there on the back nine,” Scott said. “For a caddie to say that on the 14th hole on Sunday when you have a two-shot lead is pretty big.
“But that’s why he’s one of the best caddies out there.”
Navarro has a bit of experience when it comes to watching his player struggle with a lead. Greg Norman’s longtime caddie was carrying the bag when Norman surrendered a six-shot lead in the 1996 Masters, and he’s been there in victory, too.
Scott persevered with the birdie at No. 14, shot 68 Sunday for a 21-under 263 total, tying the tournament and TPC at Avenel records set by Billy Andrade and Jeff Sluman in 1991, when Andrade won in a playoff. Scott also broke the 36-hole Avenel record Friday (14-under 128) and tied the 54-hole mark Saturday.
Scott’s 18-under 195 through three rounds equaled the low opening 54-hole total on Tour this season set by Phil Mickelson (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic) and David Toms (FedEx St. Jude Classic). It also tied Hal Sutton’s tournament record established in 1991.
It is the third PGA Tour victory and seventh worldwide for Scott, who won The Players Championship in March. At No. 15 in the world, Scott was the highest-ranked player in the field, and he clinically handled a course he had never seen until Tuesday.
“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 – with the putter.”
Scott’s six-stroke advantage over Browne through three rounds also marked the second-largest 54-hole lead of the season, eclipsed only by Toms’ seven-shot cushion at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The largest 54-hole lead at the Booz Allen Classic was seven strokes by Norman, Scott’s idol, in 1984.
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 Norman. Now, not only does Scott have Norman’s caddie, but he also employs Norman’s former coach, Butch Harmon.
Howell did his best to try to make it a tournament. His charge didn’t fade until he three-putted the 17th; he finished with 65 for a 267 total. Defending champion Rory Sabbatini shot 66 to finish third at 269, six strokes back.
“Starting as far back as I did today, it’s nice to play golf with nothing to lose,” said Howell, who broke the 18-hole course record with a 61 Thursday. “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.”
Scott and Howell are two of the Tour’s young guns. Could Sunday’s duel have been a preview?
“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.”