- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 27, 2004

Today’s final-round loop at the Booz Allen Classic should be little more than a ceremonial victory lap for Adam Scott.

The 23-year-old Aussie turned the event into a virtual rout yesterday at TPC at Avenel, scorching to 18 under via a third-round 67 that left him six strokes clear of the field.

“I’m definitely playing very well,” said Scott after matching the tournament’s 54-hole scoring record (195) established by Hal Sutton in 1991. “If I play anything like I have the last three days, unless someone shoots real low, I should be all right.”

That’s an outrageously conservative assessment of the situation, given both the quality of Scott’s play this week and his impressive history as a closer.

The precociously gifted Scott didn’t completely overwhelm Avenel yesterday like he did on Friday, when he hit all 18 greens en route to one of the most casual 62s ever posted. But on a day when the wind finally arrived to protect the 6,987-yard, par-71 layout, Scott’s 67 was easily enough to overwhelm the floundering field.

While Scott’s closest competitors, Olin Browne (12 under) and 1999 champion Rich Beem (10 under) were falling back on the blustery back nine, Scott never broke stride, posting a closing 32 to stick a spear in suspense.

Browne, the 45-year-old St. Albans School graduate and area native, maintained contact the longest. But an ill-timed gust of wind at No.16 and a bad swing at the 18th produced a pair of bunkered approach shots and closing bogeys. And when Scott rolled home a point-blank birdie at the 18th, his three-shot lead on the 16th tee box had ballooned to six by the time he signed his card.

“It was playing tough at the end. I just managed to hang on, and it seemed like a few of the other guys stumbled over the line,” said Scott, the top-ranked player (No.15) here. “It’s funny how it panned out.”

Not really. Six of Scott’s seven birdies came from inside 10 feet yesterday, practically eliminating the need for that fickle 14th club. He ranks first in the field in greens hit this week (46 of 54), second in driving distance (323.3 yards) and 11th in putting (27.7) — all of which translates into a very serious throttling of the field and the tournament record book.

A perfect example of Scott’s prowess came at the 18th, a 445-yard par 4 playing dead into the wind yesterday. Scott piped a 310-yard drive into the wind (some 60 yards past Browne), rifled a 9-iron to 3 feet below the hole (after Browne fought a 5-iron) and coasted home the putt.

If you aren’t getting the picture, this isn’t a fair fight.

“What’s entertaining about the game is, it’s almost poetry when it gets to being right, and the guy is on target right now and playing beautifully,” said Browne, who literally seems in awe of Scott. “I’m going to watch him hit every shot [today]. The guy’s swing is awesome. I think I might be able to learn something.

“The guy is a beautiful golfer. He was predicted for this quality of play, and he’s owning up to that.”

And today, Scott will try to add another crystal trophy to a case that already includes the laurels from this season’s prestigious Players Championship. Of course, Browne and the others in Scott’s wake didn’t officially raise the white flag yesterday. But you’re more likely to see snow this afternoon than a Scott implosion.

Interestingly, the last player to blow a six-stroke lead heading into the finale at a PGA Tour event was Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters. Norman is not only a fellow Aussie, he was Scott’s childhood idol. Norman’s caddie that day at Augusta National was Tony Navarro, who will be under Scott’s bag today at Avenel. And finally, Norman’s longtime instructor, Butch Harmon, now tutors Scott.

Sure, the circumstantial similarities are eerie. But there’s no comparison between the two players’ constitutions. Unlike Norman, Scott is a killer closer, a player who is 2-0 with a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour and has won five straight as a front-runner dating back to his days on the European Tour.

To paraphrase a quote from Colin Montgomerie, who was asked at the 1997 Masters why Tiger Woods was uncatchable with a six-stroke lead when Norman wasn’t, “First off, Nick Faldo isn’t lying second. And second, Tiger Woods [read Adam Scott] isn’t Greg Norman.”

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