Golden Bear's PGA National design proves a worthy adversary

By Dave Hyde
Published on

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Jack Nicklaus never intended to inject fear into the end of The Honda Classic. He really didn't. Oh, a well-constructed par-3 can be as "dangerous" as any hole, he said, but that wasn't behind his designs.

"Pizzazz," is the word Nicklaus chose Sunday afternoon.

That was his aim here. He wanted to make the three PGA National holes called, "The Bear Trap," interesting to solve. And no one had more trouble solving them than Adam Scott, who in 11 Honda rounds entering Sunday was 22-over-par on those three holes.

So when Scott three-putted to bogey No. 16 on Sunday's final round, it looked like he was en route to being swallowed whole again by Nicklaus's unintentionally dangerous design, right?

Not so fast. This is golf.

Scott was locked in a mano-a-mano match with Sergio Garcia over this grueling course highlighted by this grueling stretch. And Garcia was having his own troubles Sunday, too.

The difference is Garcia's rocky route wasn't closing this Bear Trap. It's closing tournaments. Period. Garcia has six PGA tournament wins. He has 15 runner-ups. Those are the kinds of numbers the give athletes a reputation.

"He hasn't been good at finishing off tournaments," NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller said on the air Sunday.

Then Miller used the p-word that applied to Sunday just as much as Nicklaus's one of "pizzazz."

"Pressure," Miller said.

As in it got to Garcia just enough again Sunday. As in it helped sway this tournament Scott's way. As in Garcia stood just off the 16th green and knocked a chip 17 feet past the pin to match Scott's bogey on the hole.

"I hit a bad shot and, obviously, a tough chip," Garcia said.

Then came the next hole, the par-3 17th. Nicklaus talked how, "it's not playing difficult this week" because of the wind direction. Scott navigated it for a par. Garcia hit his tee shot into the greenside rough, then missed a 13-foot putt for par.

"Thought I made that one," Garcia said. "Unfortunately, it didn't break left."

Pizzazz? Pressure? Simple breaks of the tough game? All you know is Scott had a commanding two-shot lead entering the tournament's final hole.

Scott, to be sure, talked openly of feeling pressure and having "scars" from losing. Entering the day tied with Garcia, he said, was actually better than leading by a stroke. It took off some notable pressure.

"I slept a lot more comfortably [Saturday] night than being just one in front," he said. "It's not a nice spot, because you're leading and you're expected to win, but one shot over 18 holes around a golf course like this, or anyone that we play on the PGA tour, is nothing."

Scott had to manage his own feelings down the stretch, too. The start of The Bear Trap, the par-3 No. 15, was where he suffered a quadruple bogey on Saturday. He went to the tee, set for his shot and then stepped back.

"I'd be lying if I just said I didn't even think about [Saturday]," he said. "But the tee went forward today and that was helpful because it wasn't even close to the same kind of shot."

Nicklaus used to navigate a golf course by reducing it to a half-dozen difficult shots to play safe. The tee shots on No. 15 and 17, he said, were two such shots at PGA National.

Scott hit winning shots on each. He conquered his feeling on the 15th. He hit over the water to within 20 feet on No. 17. Coupled with Garcia's two bogeys in The Bear Trap, that decided this tournament as much as anything.

Sundays loser fell into the closing trap, as he has through his career. But Sunday's winner looked exhausted by the effort, too.

"It felt like a battle," Scott said. "It wasn't elation at the end. There was definitely a sense of relief and just satisfaction and quite happy that it was over and I hung on."

This article was written by Dave Hyde from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.