Thursday 22 March 2018

Scott aims to reach summit in style

Adam Scott of Australia (Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Adam Scott of Australia (Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

James Corrigan in Ponte Vedra, Florida

The vagaries, if not absurdities, of golf's rankings mean that Adam Scott would have been assured of rising above the world No 1, Tiger Woods, if he did not play in the Players Championship which starts here today .

But the Australian does not want to take the back door into immortality and become the 17th professional to scale the summit since the system's inception 28 years ago. In fact, he does not even wish to think of the minimum he requires on the famous Stadium Course course at Sawgrass, which could be as little as a place inside the top 16.

"I want to stamp my foot down as a big-time player," Scott said. "And anyway, there for are three other players here who have a chance of becoming world No 1. I can't take for granted where any of them will come.

"Listen, I would love to win this golf tournament and ascend to No 1 that way and not just look for a position to do so."

How the game could do with this four-horse race going all the way to the wire. It would be apt if a season which has so far been commanded by the supposedly lesser men is suddenly transformed by the supposedly better men staging an epic fight to replace the sidelined Tiger Woods as The Man.


The others with the honour in their sights are the Swede Henrik Stenson (who needs at least a top-six finish) and the Americans Bubba Watson (outright second) and Matt Kuchar (win). All boast merit, all boast an intriguing narrative. Yet perhaps Scott's tale is the most alluring, especially at this of all venues.

It is 10 years since Scott became the youngest winner of the PGA Tour's flagship event. His victory did not come without its drama; after negotiating the notorious island-green 17th, the then 23-year-old hooked a six iron into the water on the 18th and had to get up and down for the title.

Yet he survived this examination and the Queenslander with the film-star looks and a swing to match seemed certain to graduate to challenge Woods for the No?1 spot.

Despite prevailing six more times in the next two years – a haul which carried him to No 3 in the world – Scott went missing in the events which truly mattered. He now knows why. "I didn't make the most out of winning this tournament at a young age," Scott said. "Being inexperienced and naive worked against me.

"I didn't realise that to keep going and move up to that next level how hard I would have to work. You just think it's all going to keep coming along – as everything had to that point in my career. Yeah, I kept winning and playing good. But I never really performed like that in another big event for quite a while."

Try seven years – a period in which he fell out of the world's top 50 – until he contended at the 2011 Masters before finishing runner-up to Charl Schwartzel. The following year came his final four-hole collapse to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els. And then, last year, he finally broke through at Augusta, winning his country its first green jacket. Scott made a promise to himself at that moment.

"I want to build on what I did last year at the Masters," he said. "I don't want 2013 to be a dream year and it all to go downhill from there."

This a very real concern for Scott, no matter how assured he appeared yesterday. At Bay Hill in March, he gave away a seven-stroke halfway lead with the No 1 tag on the line, and then at his defence of the Masters he was in a tie for third after two rounds and proceeded to shoot a tournament-wrecking 76. "I was pretty annoyed at myself after Augusta," Scott said.

"Saturday, it was so disappointing to lose my momentum. I was maybe a little too comfortable, which I sometimes I feel is a curse of mine. I've been playing some good golf and not getting the results I've wanted. So here's a chance again to get into contention and this time pull it off. It's an exciting week."

Of course, if Scott were to be crowned No 1 here on Sunday then he would face the barrage of negativity which every new No 1 has to face whose name is not Tiger. But as far as Geoff Ogilvy, his fellow Australian, is concerned, the moniker will be completely fitting.

"No one else has played better in the last three years than Scotty," Ogilvy said. "He's a legitimate No 1.

"He's a way better player than Tiger at this moment. Adam can't finish outside the top 10. He's always contending, especially in the big ones Hopefully, he does it in style." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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