Scott showed resolve after Open collapse
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
A day after bogeying the final four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to let the Claret Jug slip through his fingers and into Ernie Els’ lap, Adam Scott was sprawled out on a sofa in his house in the Swiss Alps.
On the television was the crime-drama series The Killing, which Scott and his dad, Phil, watched for 20 hours over three straight days, and seemed somewhat apropos given what had just transpired in The Open Championship.
But while everyone around Scott saw tragedy -- one definition of the word is a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man -- he was the only one who didn’t.
“I think (my dad) was probably more gutted than me,” Scott said. “I can’t imagine how it is as a parent to see that. 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.”
Nine months later all Scott did was capture his first major, beating Angel Cabrera in a playoff at Augusta National to become the first Australian to win the Masters. The victory also proved that Scott had moved on quickly and would not be defined by what happened that day in Lytham.
Second chances don’t often present themselves (see van de Velde, Jean), but Scott was set on making the most of his rather than being left to wonder what might have been. Perhaps the best example of this came immediately after the Aussie answered every question with a certain elegance and grace in his post-round press conference, including one final one.
“Can I ask you about your local connections?” a gentleman in a tweed jacket from a local newspaper with a voice not unlike George Formby’s piped up from the back of the room. “Were your parents from Freckleton originally, and did your grandmother have a house overlooking the course?”
Rather than walking off to lick his wounds, or scowling at the inquirer -- either of which would have been perfectly reasonable considering the circumstances -- Scott, being the neverending nice guy he is, couldn’t help himself.
“No, my parents are from Australia,” he said with a crack of a smile as the pall that had befallen the room was replaced by laughter. “And my grandmother was from Wales, actually. It's my dad's cousins that are from Freckleton. And I believe his aunt lived behind the ninth green. That's the best I've got for you.”
Scott knew, too, it was the best he’d played to that point in a major championship and that was sort of the point, which is why he didn’t beat himself up too badly.
“I didn’t feel this huge burden of not having won a major yet,” Scott said. “I felt like it definitely could have come. But I felt like I was two years into not winning majors, not 13.
“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 you've had eight close calls, you've had a couple, and golf is like that.”
Even the man hoisting the Claret Jug figured his good buddy would be OK in the long run.
“I did see him afterwards in the scorer's hut and he seemed OK,” said Els at the time. “I told him that I've been there many times and you've just got to bounce back quickly. Don't let this thing linger. Thankfully he's young enough. He's got the next 10 years that he can win more than I've won. I've won four now; I think he can win more than that.”
None of this is to suggest Scott was completely devoid of emotion. As close as he is to Els, Scott has a difficult time every time he sees a clip of the South African hoisting the Claret Jug that should have been his for the past 51 weeks.
“I sat around and thought I had one hand on the jug and let it slip,” Scott admitted. “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. You never know if you're going to get that opportunity.”
Coming as close as he had last year was also progress. Prior to 2011, Scott had just four career top 10s in majors, none of which he was a factor in on Sunday.
Then at the end of 2008 and for most of 2009, he hit rock bottom inside the ropes, dropping out of the top 50 in the world and finishing a career-worst 108th on the PGA TOUR money list after missing the cut in 10 of his 19 starts. Outside them, he’d broken up with longtime girlfriend Marie Kojzar, whom he’d dated for seven years, living together for five of them. (The two have since reunited.)
“The way I look at it is I feel like I only played poorly for six months,” said Scott, whose turnaround began with a win at the 2009 Australian Open and continued the following year with wins in San Antonio and Singapore. “I felt 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."
Helping him find that way, especially on the game’s biggest stage, was caddie Steve Williams, whom Scott called “my eyes on that putt” after the clinching stroke at the Masters in April.
Williams, a New Zealander, and Scott have been longtime friends with both being from the same part of the world. Their on-course relationship began part-time in 2011 when Tiger Woods was injured, and it became full-time when Woods fired Williams in July of that year.
“He came along at the right time for me,” Scott said of Williams, who had been on the bag for 14 major-championship victories, 13 of them with Woods. “He's given me the right things at the right time; the motivation, the belief, the kick in the ass when it's needed, as well.
“We wouldn't have matched up well 10 years ago. The kick in the ass, the bluntness, wouldn't have gone down well. I don't think I would have responded as well. He's been a big factor, especially for the majors.”
All of which will make Scott one of the favorites this year at Muirfield. He missed the cut the last time the Open was played there, but that was 11 years ago when he was just 21. Still, he remembers it fondly, calling it his favorite venue of the rota.
He also recalls missing the cut by one despite making 15 pars and three birdies during the second round. While it wasn’t enough to erase an opening-round 77, Scott was able to erase whatever bad memories might have lingered following last year’s loss.
“I'm really looking forward to going back and trying to get myself in a similar kind of situation, a chance to win The Open,” he said. “Every tournament, I feel, is an opportunity for me now, even more so after winning the Masters, to just build on this.
“I think really turned a corner there last year in my belief in how to play that golf and understanding a little better and preparing a little better for it. My confidence is where it should be going into this one.”