JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Masters Tournament champion Adam Scott didn’t think his round was good enough Sunday at The Barclays.
His caddie had already packed his golf clubs into a travel case. He viewed his visit to the CBS Sports tower as nothing more than a courtesy. His only hope was that the other players still on the course – Tiger Woods and Justin Rose among them – might find it as difficult to close out a victory as Scott has over the years.
“I’m pretty shocked,” Scott said after his 5-under 66 gave him a one-shot win in the opener of the FedEx Cup playoffs at Liberty National. “There were so many guys out there with a chance and I really didn’t think I had much of a chance. If you hang around the lead long enough, you’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some. And this one went my way.”
Scott was watching from the locker room when Rose, who had a 25-foot putt for the outright lead, ran it 5 feet by the hole and three-putted for bogey. Clubs unpacked, Scott was on his way to the range when the groans told him Woods narrowly missed his 25-foot birdie putt from off the back of the 18th green to tie for the lead. Once on the range, a large video board showed Gary Woodland miss his third consecutive birdie putt from inside 10 feet.
“I guess it’s different playing an hour-and-a-half in front of the leaders, the guys who have been under pressure all day than when you’re out there,” Scott said. “I know how they feel. When the pressure is on you to close out, it’s much harder, and the holes become much harder and shots are far more crucial.
“I feel like I’ve been given a bit of a gift,” he said. “But I’ll take it.”
Scott finished at 11-under 273.
Woods suffered a back spasm on the par-5 13th hole and hooked a fairway metal so far left that it landed in a swamp on the other side of the 15th fairway. Woods dropped to all fours in pain before slowly getting up. He also dropped a shot on the 15th, and then fought back with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to get within one.
His birdie putt from off the 18th green was one short turn of falling. He shot 69.
Charles Howell (24), Patrick Reed (32), Brian Gay (51) and Scott Brown (79) advanced in the playoffs.
Woods had all four rounds in the 60s for the first time in a year on the PGA Tour, though it wasn’t enough. He battled stiffness in his lower back all week, which he attributed to a soft bed in his hotel room – the second straight year he has had back issues from a mattress at this event.
In a brief interview with CBS Sports, he said it was “hypothetical” when asked if he would compete in the Deutsche Bank Championship, the next playoff event that starts Friday on the TPC Boston. The tournament gives its charity money to Woods’ foundation. Woods already missed the AT&T National this year, which also benefits his foundation.
“I just got off and I’m not feeling my best right now,” he said.
Rose wasn’t feeling that great, either. He was in position to win the tournament with a birdie putt, and the U.S. Open champion did not want to leave it short. Instead, he knocked it by farther than he imagined, the ball stayed on the high side of the cup the whole way.
“I got too aggressive,” said Rose, who closed with a 68. “I thought it was a putt to win the tournament. It’s tough to take.”
Kevin Chappell had a two-shot lead after a birdie on the 10th hole, but then played the next seven holes in 7-over par and closed with a 76. Woodland had a 73. Matt Kuchar, who shared the 54-hole lead with Woodland, fell back with a triple bogey on No. 9. His only birdie was on the 18th hole, and it gave him a 78.
“I found a way to hang in there and grind it out and gave myself a chance on the back nine on Sunday, which is everything you can ask for,” Woodland said.
It was the second time Woods has missed a playoff by one shot at Liberty National.
Graham DeLaet of Canada, whose 65 matched Phil Mickelson for the low score of the final round, also tied for second. DeLaet will move up to No. 9 in the Presidents Cup standings, and with one week before qualifying ends, is in good shape to make the International team.
Scott won for the second time this year, and at least put himself into the conversation for PGA Tour player of the year if he were to go on to win the FedEx Cup. He is No. 2 in the standings behind Woods, though the $10 million prize does not come into view until the Tour Championship.
The first playoff event was packed with plenty of energy on a spectacular day across from the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Five players had at least a share of the lead at some point in the final round. Woods put up a great fight despite his back injury. Scott played the final 24 holes without a bogey.
Sunday also had some of the emotions found at Q-school for players whose season came to an abrupt end. And it was just as wild at the bottom.
Only the top 100 players in the FedEx Cup advance to the second playoff event next week outside Boston. Geoff Ogilvy could have joined them except for missing a 2½-foot par putt on the final hole that ultimately knocked him out of the top 100.
Camilo Villegas, at No. 110, thought he needed a 6-foot par putt on the last hole to advance. He missed it and was visibly angry. More than an hour later, Aaron Baddeley appeared to be a lock to advance to Boston despite being at No. 119. Baddeley, however, bogeyed his last three holes, missing a 5-foot par putt on the 18th. That knocked him out and put Villegas back in at No. 100.
Scott missed a 15-foot birdie on the 18th hole that he thought might have been enough for a playoff at best.
“I thought I needed at least one more to even think about hanging around,” said Scott, who stayed long enough to collect his first FedEx Cup playoff win.