It’s a beautifully bright morning at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas, and Adam Scott, who still enjoys sleeping in when he can, despite being 33 years old, has already been awake for quite a while. All is sunny in his world these days, but there is work to do.
After finishing in a tie for 14th last month at the Masters, where Scott faded from contention with rounds of 76-72 on the weekend, there is extra motivation for the Aussie to perform well at THE PLAYERS Championship.
“I want to stamp my foot down as big-time player,” Scott says. “I did that last year (at the Masters) and I don’t want 2013 to be a dream year and all downhill from there.
“It’s always important to play well (at THE PLAYERS). They assemble the best field and we all think pretty highly of the course.”
A lot around the Aussie has changed in the decade since his victory at TPC Sawgrass, but not much about him has. He is still effusively nice, still perpetually private and still has movie-star looks -- though he’s quick to point out the odd gray hair. Aged and filled out he has, in experience and ability.
When Scott won the PGA TOUR’s flagship event in 2004, it was supposed to be the start of something big. Trophies would fall from the heavens, velvet ropes would part and Scott would ascend to the top of the sport, taking up residence next to Tiger Woods as his chief rival for the foreseeable future.
Sure, he went on to win five times on TOUR over the next four years and reached No. 3 in the world, but Scott's performances in the majors didn’t pass the smell test, with just three top 10s in that span. Victory on one of golf’s biggest stages didn’t lead to more trophy ceremonies on even grander ones.
“I wish it did more for me,” Scott admits. “And I mean that only as a fault of my own. It put me on the edge to becoming a great player at the time, but I didn’t use the momentum and confidence in the right way. When looking at the biggest and best events, the results weren’t there.
“What it did, it exposed me to that level and made me work that much harder.”
It also exposed him.
On his way to that victory at TPC Sawgrass, Scott nearly blew a two-stroke lead on the final hole, pulling his 6-iron approach shot into the water before having to get up-and-down for bogey -- the latter he admittedly wouldn’t have been able to do without an early-week chipping lesson from Greg Norman -- to preserve a one-shot win over Padraig Harrington.
Already committed to play the following week’s BellSouth Classic, Scott rushed up to Georgia two days later and lost in the blur of it all imploded with a second-round 79 to miss the cut. His poor play continued six days later with an 80 in the opening round of the Masters and he didn’t make it to the weekend there, either.
“When you’re that young, you’re expecting things to happen and you’re not sure how much work really goes into it,” Scott said of his PLAYERS victory. “Everything is a learning experience when you’re 23. I had no understanding of how much (that win) would take out of me. My form was great to that point, and then to play bad in Atlanta and then Augusta, the confidence took a hit and it should’ve worked the other way.”
Though Scott finished that season leading the TOUR in putting, the ones that followed saw him consistently rank outside the top 100 in that area. His low-spin, low-trajectory ball flight also made it hard for him to stop the ball quickly on the firm putting surfaces at majors.
There were other hardships along the way as well: In 2008 he ended a seven-year relationship with girlfriend Marie Kozjar, fractured his hand in a car door during a night out with friends and suffered a series of throat infections that zapped his strength.
The following year, Scott fell out of the top 50 in the world and finished a career worst 108th on the money list. He missed the cut in 10 of his 19 starts on TOUR, including at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. Afterward, Butch Harmon, who had coached the Aussie since he was 19 years old, parted ways with him with the parting message for Scott to figure out what he wanted in golf and in life.
Eventually he would, and the journey would turn out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise.
Scott slimmed down his lifestyle and schedule, switched to a long putter in 2011 and that same year hired caddie Steve Williams and his experience of being on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods’ 14 major championships. He also reuinted with Kozjar.
All the Aussie has done since is play big in big events, finishing in the top eight in seven of the last 13 major championships, including the 2013 Masters, where he became the first player from Down Under ever to win the Green Jacket.
“The whole thing is he’s gone about the process right, of scheduling himself and practicing properly on his weeks off and being prepared to play,” Williams said. “It’s allowing him to play consistently better than he has in the past.
“From when I’ve started working for him there’s no question everything in his game is better. The parts of his game that really needed improving have improved. If he knows there’s a weakness, he’ll go to work on it.”
All of which should bode well for Scott this week at TPC Sawgrass, where he has a record -- forgive the pun -- that’s better than most.
Five times Scott has finished in the top 20 there. A win this year, 10 years after what was thought to be his watershed moment, would also move him to No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career.
It would also mean something else to Scott.
“I realize how young I really was then,” he said of his win 10 years ago. “I would take a PLAYERS victory a lot less for granted now.”
ADAM SCOTT'S PLAYERS RECORD Starts Wins Top-10s Top-25s MCs Earnings Average 12 1 (2004) 3 6 3 $2,393,920 $199,493 Year Finish Rd. 1 Rd. 2 Rd. 3 Rd. 4 Score To Par 2013 T19 69 68 75 71 283 -5 2012 T15 68 70 74 71 283 -5 2011 CUT 76 72 MC MC 148 +4 2010 T26 70 68 71 74 283 -5 2009 CUT 71 74 MC MC 145 +1 2008 T54 75 71 71 80 297 +9 2007 T6 74 71 70 67 282 -6 2006 T53 70 67 82 76 295 +7 2005 T8 69 68 73 73 283 -5 2004 1 65 72 69 70 276 -12 2003 T17 69 69 74 71 283 -5 2002 CUT 77 74 MC MC 151 +7 71.08 70.33 73.22 72.56 71.64 -15