SCOTT STILL PURSUING SILVERWARE AND JACKETS 20 YEARS ON FROM MAIDEN VICTORY
by Jim Mccabe
Given that the youngster had just celebrated his 21st birthday, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to see him at the break of dawn, getting chauffeured around the streets of Lytham St. Annes on a Tuesday July morning some 22 years ago.
Given that Blackpool – a lively English town just five miles away – was known for keeping young adults
in a festive mood well past midnight, surely the young man was headed for a warm bed and a long sleep.
It turns out Adam Scott was involved in a mission quite the opposite. He was not returning from an all-nighter; he was starting his work day, up with the sun and street-cleaners.
His birthday celebration the previous evening had been as quiet as possible. Boring, actually, although the soundest of reasons was in play.
The young Aussie had a 6am practice round scheduled at Royal Lytham and St. Annes with Tiger Woods and for a young pro golfer with vibrant dreams for his career, this was well worth the 4:45am wake-up call.
It was The Open Championship, for goodness sakes. The pinnacle in his line of work and thanks to a valuable common denominator – both Scott and Woods worked with instructor Butch Harmon back in the day – this opportunity was too good to pass up.
Here’s the thing, though. Scott was brand new to this pro golf business and didn’t understand how to slip in the back way to Royal Lytham at 5:30am. So by the time he figured things out, it was after the agreed-to starting time and Scott had to hustle meet Woods on the second hole.
“He’s young. He’ll learn,” smiled Woods.
Fast forward 11 years and Scott was now a polished, 32-year-old, winner of 20 tournaments around the world, most notably his beloved 2009 Australian Open and two marquee events on the PGA TOUR – the 2004 PLAYERS Championship and 2006 TOUR Championship.
Impeccably graceful, Scott was brilliantly handsome and owned a golf swing that flowed as smoothly as syrup. If there was a glitch, however, it came in the major championship category. The Aussie in 45 major starts had finished top 10 on just seven occasions; more painfully, there had been 15 missed cuts.
The fiery finish at the 2011 Masters (he stormed home in 67 and birdied the par-3 16th to seize a two-shot lead) was agonisingly bested when South African Charl Schwartzel miraculously birdied each of the last six holes to win. But it ignited Scott with layers of confidence so when he shot 64-67-68 to open up a four-stroke lead at Royal Lytham, it seemed that the stars were in line for his major.
Then, disaster. He bogeyed each of the last four holes, shot 75, and finished second to Ernie Els. Scott’s endearing popularity meant that thousands of fans at Lytham felt his pain during the trophy presentation, which protocol dictates the runner-up attend.
“I know I’ve let a really great chance slip through my fingers,” said Scott. “But somehow I’ll look back and take the positives from it.”
Fast forward nine months and Scott was in the thick of a Masters pressure cooker. At 6-under he began the fourth round one off the lead, but when he birdied Nos. 13 and 15 and stuffed a 7-iron to make another at 18 to shoot 69, the Aussie was the leader.
Disappointment was still in the picture when Angel Cabrera followed shortly thereafter to birdie the 72nd hole to tie Scott, only the playoff went favorably. Matching pars at the 18th again, then at the par-4 10th, Scott trusted the read of his caddie, Steve Williams, and converted a 15-footer to become the first Aussie to earn the Green Jacket.
“What an incredible day,” said Scott, who was emotional, yes, but as always, he was blanketed in composure. “Everything fell my way in the end. I’m just so proud of myself and everyone around me who has helped me.”
These three snapshots of Scott’s career – from youthful promise to gut-wrenching disappointment to reaching the pinnacle of his sport – help provide definition of a professional who has in many ways done things in a proper fashion and always with consummate dignity.
That September 1, 2023 will mark the 20th anniversary of a victory that in many ways opened the door for Scott – as a sponsor’s invite to the Deutsche Bank Championship outside of Boston, the Aussie earned his PGA TOUR card with a rousing performance – offers him the chance to be reflective in a way that fits his persona.
Acknowledging that he is blessed to be competitive at an age (43) when other pro athletes are long retired, Scott said, “I think it’s fairly unique to golf, that’s for sure.”
While it provides a sense of pride that Scott (No. 39) and Justin Rose (No. 33) are the only players ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking (Ed. Note: As of Aug. 1, 2023), the Aussie
is cognizant of the landscape and concedes it is a huge challenge to keep up with brash and bold kids who are years younger and measurably stronger.
Then again, he’s in his 20th PGA TOUR season and is 23 years removed from the day he turned pro, so being honestly appreciative of the career he’s had is a tap-in to Scott. “I think when you’re 20 or 23, you can’t imagine 20 (pro golf seasons) into the future. It’s hard to process that. If you asked me then, I probably would have said I wouldn’t be playing at this age.”
Yet here he is, striking an impactful presence at a time when pro golf is at a crossroads. Peers, several of whom he calls friends, have chosen to bring their games over to LIV Golf. Whether it was the gobs of money or the lure of a leaner and less stressful schedule, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Paul Casey are no longer PGA TOUR opponents.
Scott could have gone, too. But he chose to stay. “It suits me best to be on the PGA TOUR,” he said. “The
one thing I haven’t grasped is giving up my entire professional life of trying to achieve these things here and just leaving it behind.”
Never a screaming anti-LIV guy, Scott may not have been a roaring, flag-waving, chest-pumping pro-PGA TOUR patriot either. That’s because he tends to walk quietly and carry a forceful golf club and let his actions speak to where he stands. That he’s now the Chairman of the PGA TOUR’s Player Advisory
Council (Rickie Fowler, Scottie Scheffler, Shane Lowry, and Open Championship winner Brian Harman are prominent members), Scott is proving his leadership mettle in a manner that befits him, dignified and professionally.
His worldwide wins are up over 30 tournaments, there has been more than US$60m in prize money earned on the PGA TOUR alone, and the demand for him to be a global ambassador is stronger than ever.
So, too, is an even more important element. His passion to play and his desire to compete.
“You know, I love it and I’m really happy to be out here,” said Scott, who continues to live a quiet life in Switzerland and Australia with his wife, Maria, and their children. Far removed from the social media crowd and never one to be a citizen of the “look at me world,” Scott is as fit as ever and more determined than he was at 21 and trying to get through the gates at Royal Lytham.
“I still think I’ve got the game to win some events. So I’m going to keep pushing while I feel that way.”
“The one thing I haven’t grasped is giving up my entire professional life of trying to achieve these things here and just leaving it behind.”