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Scott holds off Howell to win Booz Allen Classic

POTOMAC — POTOMAC -- Adam Scott used talent and experience to win the $4.8 million Booz Allen Classic yesterday. While it was his talent, which has been compared with that of Tiger Woods, it was his caddie's experience.

When Scott stepped onto the tee of the par-4 14th hole at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel during the final round, having just missed a chance to make a birdie, Scott instinctively reached for his driver.

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His caddie, Tony Navarro, told Scott to put the club back in the bag and handed him a 3-iron.

"I wanted to hit driver pretty bad there, but I thought I'd listen to the wise man, Tony," Scott said.

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Wise move. After watching what had been a six-stroke lead at the start of the round and a seven-stroke lead through six holes shrink to two shots over Charles Howell III, Scott birdied the 14th and never looked back.

Though Howell climbed again within two strokes by making five straight birdies on the back nine, he would never get any closer. A 3-under-par 68 and a four-round score of 21-under 263 gave Scott a four-stroke victory.

It was the third victory on the PGA Tour in the past nine months for the 23-year-old Australian, who earlier this year won the prestigious Players Championship, and his seventh since turning pro in 2000.

The victory was worth $864,000 and pushed Scott from 10th on the money list to fifth with $2,915,670, right behind Woods. Only a bogey on the final hole prevented Scott from setting a tournament scoring record.

"When I first turned pro, I wasn't good enough to play on this tour," said Scott, who spent one year at Nevada-Las Vegas before joining the European Tour. "I had to swallow some pride and agree with people who thought that."

Scott won yesterday as he has in all but one of his previous victories: holding onto a 54-hole lead. It seemed for a while that all Scott had to do was make his tee time, finish 18 holes and properly sign his scorecard.

But things got interesting, if not quite tense, when Howell started his run of birdies on the par-3 11th hole. With Howell at 16-under and playing the 14th hole, Scott barely missed a 6-footer for birdie on 13.

"I was getting a little nervous there on the back nine after I missed that birdie putt," Scott said. "Three is quite a lot, but two isn't. Two is just a birdie and a bogey."

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But Scott showed the comparisons to Woods -- or at least the Woods of old -- weren't too far off. Scott made birdie on the 14th, another on the par-4 15th and one more on the par-3 17th right after Howell three-putted from 70 feet for bogey on 17.

"It's nice to be able to respond to a little bit of pressure," Scott said. "I would have liked to been out front a lot more all day, but that's just the way it goes. I hit some shots that weren't my best, but I managed to get away with it. It's nice to make some putts when it counts."

When Howell saw Scott move three -- and later four -- strokes ahead, he knew the chase was over.

"Unless he breaks his leg coming in, he's going to win the golf tournament," said Howell, who earned $518,400 for his best finish this season.

The only mistake Scott made after hitting his approach on the 18th hole from a fairway bunker onto the green was putting out before his playing partner, Olin Browne, whose second putt was further away than Scott's.

Browne teased Scott about his lack of protocol, but not about his future.

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"The sky's the limit," said Browne, who shot 1-over 72 and finished tied for seventh.

There are many who expected Scott to use his victory in March at The Players as a springboard for a breakout year. But then he missed the cut in three of his next four events, including the Masters and, more recently, the U.S. Open.

"I was a little burned out from The Players," said Scott. "I said it back then. It's something I have to learn, what comes with a win. I think it caught up with me."

The best move Scott made since winning what is considered the tour's "fifth major" was hiring Navarro. Greg Norman told his old caddie he'd enjoy working with Scott personally and professionally.

Navarro, who will team up with Norman at this week's Western Open while Scott takes off, said he was grateful for the opportunity and knew this was likely the first of many wins together.

"It's been a while since I've seen golf like that for a whole week," said Navarro, whose last victory with Norman was in 1997.

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It's different than what he saw in the 13 years he worked for Norman. Scott's personality is much different from Norman's. There will be no "Shark II" nicknames for a player who calls his style of play "controlled aggression."

The only emotion he showed yesterday came when Scott made a 12-foot putt on the 16th that basically sealed victory.

He pumped his fist -- once.

"I think your personality comes out a little bit in your golf game," Scott said. "I'm quite reserved. But look at Retief Goosen last week [at the U.S. Open]. He's horizontal out there. It's unbelievable. But that works for him. Tiger gets off on being pumped. I get pumped out there, too, but I feel if I get too pumped, I'm going to do something stupid."

Like reach for a driver rather than a 3-iron.


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