JERSEY CITY - All Adam Scott had sought was a respectable exit. Shoot the best score he could, finish as high on the leader board as possible, then pack up his bags and move on to the next tournament. That is pretty much what he did, except that when he finally did pack, he had to make room for a nice big, shiny crystal trophy.
Scott, whose long search for a major championship ended with his win at the Masters in April, figured he had no chance to win The Barclays Sunday when he began the final round tied for 13th, six strokes out of the lead. Even when he finished his round of 5-under-par 66 at Liberty National, he did not think he had much of a chance.
Then the other golfers kept falling off. Justin Rose (68), Tiger Woods (69) and Gary Woodland (73), in that order, each missed a putt on No. 18 that would have tied him. As he sat in the locker room and watched, Scott became a champion of the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He became living proof of the adage made famous by one of New Jersey's statesmen. Scott said, "It's never over."
He might easily have added, "Until it's over."
At 11 under par, capped by a conservatively played birdie on the short par-4 16th (a 6-iron off the tee), Scott was as surprised as anyone that he had won The Barclays. "I mean, I feel like I've been given a bit of a gift," he said, "but I'll take it, that's for sure."
There had been no reason to expect 11 under to win, given that scores had been low all week and that two golfers started the round at 12 under. But third-round co-leader Matt Kuchar (78) and third-place holder Kevin Chappell (76) tumbled, and it looked for a while as if no one could make a decent shot.
It looked as though Woods might be headed for the parking lot when his bad back brought him to his knees after a swing on the 13th hole. But he rallied and needed to make a 26-foot, 8-inch putt from the back fringe to tie on the final hole. He was 2 inches short. Scott said, "I just heard the crowd not cheering."
Before that, Rose, the reigning U.S. Open champion and a good friend of Scott, needed only a par on No. 18 to tie Scott. But he three-putted for bogey and finished at 10 under, along with Woods, Woodland and Canadian pro Graham DeLaet. "I just bumped into him in the locker room. There's not much you can say," Scott said. "He's got to be feeling disappointed, obviously. It would have been pretty fun if we went out there for a ding dong in a playoff."
It was no ding dong for Woodland down the stretch, more of a "tick . . . tick . . . tick" of the clock running out. The big hitter drove into the water on the par-5 13th and made bogey. He never got back to 11 under again.
"Today, I just didn't have any 'A' game," Woodland said. "But 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. I made a bad decision on 13. Making bogey on a par 5 is tough for me."
Missing a 12-footer on No. 18 was tougher. Scott knows the feeling, having lost down the stretch before, including an epic collapse at the 2012 British Open. But he rebounded with his finest year.
"To have multiple wins on the PGA Tour is a pretty good accomplishment, I think," said the winner. "I just wanted to have a good score today. I said, 'I want to finish as high as I can.' "
He could not have finished any higher.