Scott returns to Open a major champion
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Adam Scott, major champion.
It’s an introduction that follows him wherever he goes now.
From the raindrops and gloaming that surrounded him on the putting green at Augusta National, to the locker room at Congressional Country Club, where more than two months after the fact fellow competitors were still congratulating him and asking him to sign Masters pin flags, to all the way across the Atlantic and this week’s Open Championship, where Scott endured his biggest of professional heartbreaks.
To everyone around the Aussie, the latter was tragic. Everyone except Scott, that is.
There is not success without failure, Scott believed, strengthened by how close he’d come to having both hands on the Claret Jug rather than weakened by the raw fact that he’d let it slip through his fingers.
Nine months later, he proved how mentally strong he is, capturing the Green Jacket with the entire weight of a nation plopped on his shoulders.
With Muirfield – his favorite venue in the Open rota -- next in his sights, Scott recently sat down for an exclusive interview with PGATOUR.COM’s Brian Wacker at Congressional Country Club to discuss life as a major champion, that dreaded day 12 months ago and everything in between.
What did you learn about yourself after last year’s Open Championship?
SCOTT: Nothing that I didn't already think about myself. But there is a whole thing about not being afraid to fail, and I don't think I was ever afraid to fail but I never believed I would fail, and I didn't believe I would on that Sunday, either. But it was a failure, really. That's not how I took it, though, because I honestly believed that's the best I had played in a major to that point. It was all in my control, and I let it slip. But that's the way I've been working to play. It didn't hurt as much as it looked like it might, but don’t get me wrong, I sat around and thought I had one hand on the jug and let it slip. The biggest thing for the rest of my life will be to make sure I get myself in that position again and get my hands on it because you just don't know if you're going to get that opportunity. Even though I won the Masters it doesn't make up for not winning The Open last year. They're different things. I'll be motivated to go back this year for sure.
When you won the Masters did it feel like a weight was lifted from your shoulders, especially given what happened last year at the Open?
SCOTT: A little bit. But I really didn't feel like this huge burden of not having won a major yet. It definitely could have come. I felt like I was two years into not winning majors, not 13. I felt like there were different phases in my career. Right from the minute I turned pro, people said, ‘Oh, this guy has got potential to win a major,’ but it wasn’t realistic then, or it didn't pan out to be realistic. The reason I say it wasn't weighing me down, I was just enjoying playing well in majors the last couple years. I was of the belief if I keep playing like this it's going to happen. It's not like I had eight close calls. I had a couple. You're going to win some tournaments, you're going to lose some. I think helping that, too, was not only did I win a major but I became the first Australian to win the Masters, which was such a big deal for Aussies, and the celebration and response to winning was overwhelming. It was so huge that it almost got lost in the real thing of me winning a major. It was more about Australian golf and finally getting the Masters.
Masters champion Adam Scott. How does that sound?
SCOTT: It's cliché almost to say it's surreal, but it is. It's incredible. I think back on it and I just can't believe that that was me that was out there playing -- especially at Augusta, it's almost like this dream place; everything is so perfect there. I guess probably almost anyone who had won the tournament would feel like it was the perfect week. Since then it's just been a lot of fun, really, and I've tried to enjoy every bit of it. But the hardest thing has been putting it into perspective and understanding the balance of enjoying it and then also keeping yourself going. This is not the end, this is not where it stops. This is the beginning. I think the ride is over for me in that it's times to capitalize on what should be the best year of my career, no doubt. So far, anyway.
What did you do with the Green Jacket that first night?
SCOTT: I kept it on until I tried to go to bed, but I didn't sleep in the end. I just tossed and turned for about an hour and then just got back up. It was pointless going to bed. There was too much going on with the party at the house and all the Australian journos coming over for a beer. Everyone was on such a high. About lunchtime the next day, I crashed back to earth. But I had the jacket with me at all times for a good month, and then I think the Memorial Tournament was the first week that it stayed at home in the closet.
So nothing crazy like going surfing in it?
SCOTT: No (laughs), you get a pretty comprehensive letter from the club about jacket etiquette, so I've abided by that well. I've taken it around to friends' houses for dinner and showed up in it and stuff, and they get a rise out of that and so do I. Even last week it had been in the closet all week, and I thought, you know, this is something I've wanted my whole life, I'm just going to wear it for a while around the house, so I had it out. One of the golf pros from Albany came over last week and the jacket was just on the arm of the couch, and he's like, ‘Hang on, what's this?’ He hadn't seen it yet. So for some people it's so crazy. I've almost kind of gotten used to having it sitting around, which is really cool.
What's the coolest thing that has happened to you since winning at Augusta?
SCOTT: One of the weird things, I thought, was immediately after winning the Masters there I am, and Condoleezza Rice, who's a member now, I see her at the dinner on Sunday night. And I meet all the members and it's all a great experience doing that member party. But then the next day I'm up in New York and I had a pre‑planned lunch meeting on the Monday that I was going to anyway, and I go to the meeting, and they work for the Clinton Foundation, and so I come to the office, and they tell me Bill Clinton wants to see you at the office, so then I'm up there with Hillary and President Clinton. Then the Prime Minister of Australia calls, and now I'm ticking off politics left and right here. I just thought that was so funny, like this golf tournament, all of a sudden this is where it reaches out to. It's just bizarre. I thought that was a weird little 24‑hour run of touching and speaking to people that you would never, ever speak to.
Have you watched a replay of the Masters? And secondly have you ever watched one of last year’s Open Championship?
SCOTT: I fast forwarded through my shots of the Masters; I haven't sat and watched the whole coverage, but I think there will be a time probably at the end of the year that I will. When I go home and I see my friends from home, I think it'll be fun for everyone to sit around one night and do that. I'm sure we'd all like to do that, have a few drinks and get a bit rowdy. I definitely did (watch it) because one, why not, and two, I also wanted to just see what my swing looked like to be honest. I mean, that's just tragic golfer stuff. I wanted to see that and I wanted to see what it looked like on a couple of shots because of the way I felt over them. But I've never watched the Open. I've been tempted I have to say since winning the Masters, but I'm not going to. I know what happened, and like I've said a million times, I addressed what I felt were the issues there, and that's changed. I don't really need to relive that. I don't need a negative spin on anything now.
You've had some ups and downs in your career -- close calls in majors and there was a period there for a couple years in 2008 and 2009 where you struggled. What kept you believing through the low times, and did you ever wonder if you would ever get to this point?
SCOTT: The confidence takes hits almost on a daily basis for golfers, I think. One shot here or there can dent it a little bit, but over a period of time it can be dented a lot. The later into your career you are the harder it is to combat. But the way I looked at it is I feel like I only played poorly for six months. I didn't play too badly in 2008, and in early in 2009 until the end of the FedExCup I played really bad. Then I played really good at the back end of 2009. I won the Australian Open and I had a lot of great finishes in other events. In 2010 I played well. It was really only six months where I was really flat, low on confidence out on the golf course and really struggling to just find the way forward. But I was struggling to find a way out of it, you know what I mean? Six months and whatever, 13 years, is not bad, though. And it's going to happen again. There's going to be a period where you just really struggle. I'm playing really well now, but in another 12 months I might not play quite at this level.
You sent Justin Rose a text earlier this year about this being your time, meaning yours and his. Then he goes out and wins the U.S. Open after you win the Masters. What does your friendship with him mean?
SCOTT: We've known each other a long time, since I first went to Europe. The closeness is a real mutual respect for each other, appreciating each other's talent and work ethic and all the things that you put into the game, and that's why it's our time. I can see how much work he's done on his game and how consistent he is and how solid he is. I said that as definitely words of encouragement because I fully believe that Justin could have won or win any tournament that he plays in, so then he did, and I don't know what he took out of it, but that's kind of where I was going with it. It's our time, now until whenever, bagging as many as we can. It doesn't get any better. Our chance is really now. Keep your foot on the gas.
I hear you made a bet with him when you were both younger that whoever wins a major first has to use half the winner’s check for the victory party. Does that mean you’re on the hook for that?
SCOTT: When we made that bet, the check wasn't quite as big (laughs). But I think he's on the hook for it, too, and I guess I'm on the hook for it. Justin and I are close enough that we're going to have to do kind of a joint thing, and we're almost neighbors these days down in the Bahamas, too. Definitely something is going to happen.
What has Steve Williams meant to you as a caddie?
SCOTT: It's one of those things where he came along at the right time for me. We wouldn't have matched up well 10 years ago. He's given me the right things at the right time, too, the motivation, the belief, the kick in the ass when it's needed.
Why wouldn’t it have worked 10 years ago?
SCOTT: I was very shy. The kick in the ass, the bluntness wouldn't have gone down well. It would have been a bit much. I don't think I would have responded as well. But now he's been a big factor, especially for the majors. He's got a great understanding of what it takes to win majors. And he's been over the last couple of years able to adapt that stuff to my game.
You mention being shy. We don’t hear much about your life away from the course. You don’t have a Twitter account. You’re a very private person. Why is that?
SCOTT: I think part of it's managed for my own sanity. I don't necessarily think it's shyness, although I do believe I was once shy. But I really feel like I speak openly and honestly about everything that I want to with you guys, and I don't have a problem with that. But I kind of like to keep some things for myself. I don't feel the need to join the world of sharing everything, and I also don't feel the need to show off anything. Some people may think it amazing or not. I'm just not that kind of guy.
Does that come from your parents?
SCOTT: I'm a mixture of them for sure and I think they're a bit both like that. My mom is -- what's the word -- she's elegant, I would say. And my dad is a really smart man, and I think he chooses his words carefully. He doesn't mind speaking up, but he chooses them carefully, and I think absolutely I get who I am from my parents.
After losing last year’s Open Championship you disappeared to Switzerland with your dad. What did he say to you?
SCOTT: I think he was probably more gutted than me, but he put on a really brave face. I can't imagine how it is as a parent to see that. Golf has been his life, and it's been my mom's life, too. They love it, and I can't even imagine how it was for anyone to watch kind of what happened at the Open. It must have been pretty horrible because I've watched golf tournaments and been like, ‘Oh, my God, what are you doing? Why are you doing this?’ And then you do it. But he also gets me. Our relationship has really come a long way the last few years.
I've lived away from home since I was 15. I went to boarding school the last couple years of my high school and then I went straight to college in America, so we had this long‑distance relationship for a long time. But the last couple years we've really got on the same page a lot and we're really close. In the days after he was concerned. He didn't want to see me just be so devastated. But he understood, too, that that's not what was going to define me and just wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to be too hard on myself and probably just didn't want me to be alone because he knows I've spent a lot of my life kind of alone doing this kind of thing, doing the TOUR and everything. I didn't feel like I was just going to break down into a mess, but it was definitely not going to happen if he was there.
The last time the Open was at Muirfield, in 2002, you missed the cut. What do you remember from that and what are your thoughts as you head back there?
SCOTT: For some reason in my head after that '02 Open, I was like this is the best links course I've ever played. Muirfield is the best Open venue. That's what I've had in my head for 10 years, so I'm really excited to go back. It's a shame I missed the cut by a shot there because I played beautiful on Friday and made 15 pars and three birdies, so it was my best round in a major to that point, and I missed the cut by one. And of course we know Saturday morning was perfect, and by lunchtime it was horrible and guys who shot a couple under Saturday morning were playing in the last couple groups on Sunday. So that was the shame.
But yeah, it's completely different going there now. I was still finding my feet on the European Tour and trying to become a great player. This time I'm coming in as the current Masters champion, and after having a close call last year kind of wanting to get back in the mix and redeem myself and try to get the jug.