SAN DIEGO – Justin Rose won at Torrey Pines. Adam Scott challenged him to the final hole. And thanks to that 1-2 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, both surpassed $50 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour.
It’s a feat achieved by only five other players. These days, it’s little more than a monetary milestone.
But it was fitting they did it together.
Born 14 days apart in July 1980, they have been great friends since they tussled in South Africa at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in January 2001. Both were 20. Scott made a 4-foot birdie putt on the last hole to beat Rose and win for the first time as a pro. Oddly enough – or maybe not – Rose won his first professional title a year later in the same tournament.
What makes the timing so appropriate – that both joined the $50 million club on the same day – is that their PGA Tour careers effectively began together, with a little help from the men who now run the PGA Tour (commissioner Jay Monahan) and the PGA of America (chief executive Seth Waugh).
Go back to a rainy Labor Day in 2003 on the TPC Boston to find Scott closing with a 66 for a four-shot victory in the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship, which had given him a sponsor exemption. The victory gave him instant PGA Tour membership. Rose was also given an exemption, shot a final-round 67 and finished third. He earned $340,000 that day, giving him enough money to earn a Tour card.
Waugh at the time was CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, the title sponsor of a new tournament that had the Tiger Woods Foundation as the charitable arm. Monahan was hired as the tournament director.
”We gave them both exemptions,” Waugh said Tuesday from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was caddying for his son in a PGA Tour Latinoamerica qualifying tournament. ”Adam was pretty obvious. Jay called me and said, ‘Let’s talk about exemptions,’ which I’d never done.”
Monahan mentioned using a special exemption for international players on an English kid who had had a good British Open, turned pro and missed 20 consecutive cuts before getting his career on track. Waugh already was aware he was talking about Rose, who had won on three tours (Europe, South Africa, Japan) the previous year.
And then Waugh really got to know him.
”We get to the pro-am draw party Wednesday night at the statehouse in Boston,” Waugh said. ”It was a formal deal. Mitt Romney was the governor, and we’re all giving our suit speeches. There’s this tall kid by the seafood bar eating shrimp and looking lonely. I walk up to him and said: ‘How are you doing? Are you Justin Rose?’ I said, ‘What are you doing here?’
”He said Deutsche Bank was nice enough to give him an exemption and he thought he would come up and thank somebody,” Waugh said. ”He was staying all the way in Providence. I said, ‘You just did.’ But that’s Justin. No agent, nobody telling him what to do. He ended finishing third. And the rest is history.”
The history between Scott and Rose was just getting started.
They have piled up victories around the world, amassing long streaks of winning. Scott went 14 consecutive years with at least one victory worldwide and has 27 for his career. Rose won Sunday for the 22nd time worldwide, extending his streak to 10 consecutive years with at least one victory, including his gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
They now are neighbors at Albany in the Bahamas, both married with two children.
They each have won one major, which they won consecutively.
Scott finally delivered Australia a green jacket when he won the 2013 Masters. Rose sent him a text message of congratulations, which prompted this famous reply from Scott: ”This is our time.”
Two months later, Rose won the U.S. Open at Merion.
He had practiced the week before the Masters with Scott in the Bahamas, even played a couple of rounds together.
”I took his money both times,” Rose said.
And then Scott won the Masters, which made the text exchange really hit home.
Indeed, it was their time, and they kept going. Scott reached No. 1 in the world in the spring of 2014. Rose reached No. 1 in the world late last summer, and the Englishman extended his lead atop the world rankings with his two-shot victory at Torrey Pines.
Waugh still thinks about that Monday afternoon at the TPC Boston, where Scott and Rose spent the entire week together, at restaurants and on the leaderboard. They have won so much and done so well that money doesn’t define them.
In this case, it was simply a reminder of where it all began.