Scott showing signs of ending slump at AT&T Byron Nelson
May 16, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Adam Scott drains 48-foot putt to win 2008 AT&T Byron Nelson
Life off the course has been pretty good for Adam Scott, who with his wife, Marie, and daughter, Bo Vera, welcomed a son, Byron, last summer.
On the course? That’s another story. Good results have been hard to come by for the 13-time PGA TOUR winner, who nevertheless may be starting to play his way out of a year-long slump. He shot three rounds in the 60s and finished T11 at THE PLAYERS Championship last week. It was a welcome uptick for a player who has no top-10s in 11 TOUR starts this season; is 110th in the FedExCup; has dropped to 65th in the world from ninth a year ago; and is in danger of snapping his streak of 67 straight major championship starts, second to only Sergio Garcia.
“I have to back it up,” Scott, 37, said at THE PLAYERS. “I need three or four good weeks in a row now, but you can’t have three or four good weeks in a row without the first one.”
Next up: This week’s AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club, the linksy, windswept Coore/Crenshaw design in South Dallas. This is the tournament Scott won in 2008, albeit on a different course, and he has great reverence for its namesake, who passed away in 2006. So much reverence, it informed Adam and Marie’s decision on what to name their son last August.
At his press conference at Trinity Forest on Wednesday, Scott recounted his first-ever meeting with Nelson at the 2002 Masters. The legend was sitting on the first tee of the Par 3 Contest when a slightly nervous Scott, then 21, approached to introduce himself.
“Before I could say ‘Mr. Nelson,’” Scott said, “He said, ‘Adam, it’s nice to see you here, you’re going to have a great career.’ I was pretty touched by the fact that he even knew who I was.”
In truth, the surfing town Byron Bay and poet Lord Byron also played a role in his son’s name, but Scott never forgot the gentleman golfer Nelson. “If my Byron can be anything like that,” Scott said. “Doesn’t have to be a champion golfer, but if he can be a gentleman, I’d be very, very proud.”
A good omen for this week? Sure. And then there’s this: Scott and Texas golf go together like Wranglers and cowboy boots. He’s won the Houston Open (2007), the Nelson (2008), the Valero Texas Open (2010) and the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial (2014), completing a rare Texas Slam. Another good omen.
The best news for Scott is the fact that he may be emerging from the putting doldrums. He is part of a mini-revival of former anchored-putting experts that includes new PLAYERS champion Webb Simpson (first in strokes gained: putting last week) and Keegan Bradley, who tied for seventh and was 22nd in strokes gained: putting.
Scott made over 330 feet worth of putts at TPC Sawgrass, which was 27th best in the field. He was 28th in strokes gained: putting (+.590). For a guy who was 193rd in that statistic going into THE PLAYERS, who merely aspires to be average on the greens, that’s pretty good.
Trying to keep up with his putting travails isn’t easy, even for him. There’s a pattern, though: He makes a change, putts well, and then, after a while, the ball stops finding its target. His enviable swing is out of reach for most amateurs, but with putting he is like many fellow TOUR pros and virtually every weekend player who would try everything and anything, as long as it’s legal. An old cross-country ski with a modified claw grip attached to the bindings via one of Harry Vardon’s old pipe cleaners? Sure. Let’s give it a go.
Scott started his career with a standard-length putter, winning, among other tournaments, THE PLAYERS in 2004. He used a long putter for victories at the 2011 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and 2013 Masters. Then, a month after Scott became the first Australian to win at Augusta National, the USGA announced it would ban anchored putting in 2016.
That’s when things started to change.
“It’s not a very nice thing; the vibe on the course every week was people yelling we’re cheating,” Scott said. “And that was a horrible situation to be in. And then the constant questioning in that 12 months before of what are you going to do, what are you going to do, when are you going to do it, how are you going to do it, all that stuff was quite frustrating.”
The frustration, he added, began to creep into his game.
“No doubt I didn’t putt very well the back half of ’15,” Scott admitted, “and it was more out of frustration. For a while I didn’t have to think about putting, and all of a sudden I’m thinking about putting, and thinking for me is never really a good thing.”
Fed up with his results and the implication that he was doing something wrong, Scott went back to a standard-length putter in the fall of 2015. He practiced, trying to remember the feeling of the thing. Christmas came and went. Then New Year’s. Then something unexpected: Scott won The Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac at Doral to come out roaring in the 2016 Florida Swing.
What had happened? Was he better with the standard-length putter?
It didn’t last. By last fall, Scott was struggling again. He skipped the first FedExCup Playoffs event, THE NORTHERN TRUST, to be back in Australia for the birth of his son, and his surprise return for the Dell Technologies Championship to try to extend his season didn’t work out (MC). He went 1-3-0 for the International Presidents Cup Team at Liberty National.
This season brought more of the same.
“Just me being a little too stubborn,” Scott said.
At the Wells Fargo Championship, two weeks ago, he finally went back to the long putter he used to win the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone. He braced the grip against his left arm like others have done, and it worked. Although Scott missed the 54-hole cut at Quail Hollow Club, he putted better. Then came TPC Sawgrass, the most encouraging week yet. Those crucial 15-foot par saves that keep a round going? He made one or two of them each day.
“It keeps the round going,” he said. “And I just haven’t been doing that consistently, and it makes it hard, always on the back foot.”
Assuming his stroke traveled to Texas with him, the 65th-ranked Scott is in prime position to crack the top 60 in the world by either May 21 or June 11, thereby earning entry into the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Otherwise, it’s off to sectionals.
But that’s background noise. Scott has another Byron in his sights, this time on a course that evokes the Open Championship, a tournament he’s always played well. Given the trajectory he’s on with his new/old putter, you’d be smart to keep an eye on him.
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