How Adam Scott almost jumped The Shark
Adam Scott choked in the British Open overnight. It’s an awful term which can only be used as a slur, but it’s the right word and it’s not callous to use it.
To paraphrase the words of Oscar Wilde and transpose them from polite London society to a windswept golf links: blowing a four stroke overnight lead may be regarded as a misfortune. But blowing a four stroke lead with just four holes to play was carelessness.
So where now for Scott? Will this haunt him for the rest of his career? Is he mortally wounded? Or, to borrow an equally droll British line from Monty Python’s Black Knight, is this “just a flesh wound”?
The 32 year old Adelaide-born, Queensland-raised, US-educated Swiss resident who until recently had a Serbian girlfriend, is quite the man of the world these days.
He’s got a world class golf game too. Scott boasts 18 wins worldwide, thanks to golf’s sweetest swing and a putting stroke which he’s transformed from erratic to reliable with the help of, ahem, a long shaft. He also has the world’s most accomplished bag-carrier in Tiger Woods’ old caddie Steve Williams.
In person, Scott is an uncomplicated character. In fact, he’s rather bland. That calm demeanour doesn’t make him the life of the party, but it is a huge asset out on the golf course as it usually – usually – makes him immune to mental meltdown.
Scott has shrugged off pressure before. He won a dozen tournaments worldwide before he won in Australia, and had been criticised for not bringing his best game home. In 2009, he cleared out to win the Australian Open at NSW GC by five strokes. He was ruthless that week.
Scott’s capitulation over those final four holes at Royal Lytham wasn’t as spectacular as Jean Van de Velde’s world’s best practice meltdown in the British Open in 1999. The Frenchman threw away the title with audacious shotmaking when sensible play was all that was required.
Adam Scott just started missing greens. Then he started missing putts. Then shorter putts. Then before you knew it, four shots had disappeared down the gurgler and Ernie Els had pipped him. It was actually quite a mild-mannered meltdown very much in tune with Scott’s demeanour.
But a meltdown it was. Perhaps he shouldn’t have looked at his phone before his final round. It contained a text from Greg Norman. Scott and Norman are close, but The Shark is the last name you want to see when your phone goes bzzzz.
Whatever the text said, Scott is still well placed to emulate and perhaps better Norman’s career tally of two Majors, and here’s why. Scott is nowhere near as egotistical as Norman. You know how they say “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”?
Well, that old adage can apply to a sportsman’s ego as well as his girth. Norman fell hard several times and eventually couldn’t pick himself up. Scott fell hard last night too, but he can recover, perhaps as soon as next month’s US PGA championship in South Carolina.
As a not totally unrelated aside, I was once lucky enough to watch Adam Scott and his British Open conqueror Ernie Els in action together. It was February 2004, at a now defunct tournament called the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne.
Els shot out of the blocks with a course record 60 in the first round. After three rounds, he led the field by eight strokes. Adam Scott was his nearest challenger and the two played the final round together.
After just nine holes of that final round, Scott had drawn level. The duo then had an epic back nine dogfight. In a spooky preview of last night’s showdown, it ended in a one shot victory to the South African.
Els and Nick Faldo were among two notables that week who tipped Scott for Majors success in the future. They’re probably still right. Scott can still win a Major, and not just because of his silky game, but because he’s got a cool head to go with those super cool threads he wears.
He just needs to stay cool when it matters.
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