Former Players champion looks ahead to defining years of his career
by Chris Cox / PGA TOUR
From the outside, Adam Scott looks much the same as he did in 2000 when he opted to leave college and become a professional golfer. He still has the same boyish good looks and perpetual smile. And his smooth textbook swing remains the envy of aspiring youngsters around the world.
But Scott is no longer just another handsome guy who can square up a clubface as well as anyone in the world. He has grown dramatically as a person and a player. Now, as he prepares to celebrate his 40th birthday on July 11, the Australian has become one of the game’s international leaders, in words and deeds. He’s a family man with a wife and two young children.
And Scott, with his continued success, has thrust himself into the conversation when it turns to inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Right now, Scott is willing to let others determine his legacy. He is only interested in winning golf tournaments, particularly major championships.
“Winning tournaments is always my goal and we put a huge focus on the majors,” Scott said. “Of course, I would love to win any of the other majors later this year. My goal is to keep my game in a spot where that’s realistic. … I would like to get myself back quickly in that position and see if I can add to that tally this year.”
Scott was back in form earlier in 2020 when he ended a four-year winless streak by claiming a two-shot victory at the Genesis Championship at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles. The win enabled the former Players Championship winner to climb back into the top-10 rankings after falling as low as 82nd in July 2018.
It was the 14th victory of his PGA TOUR career – tied for 65th all-time — but his first in 74 starts. The only active players with more wins are Tiger Woods (82), Phil Mickelson (44), Dustin Johnson (20), Rory McIlroy (18) and Jim Furyk (17).
Scott admitted that the long drought – although not as serious as the bad stretch he endured in 2009 in the aftermath of a surfing-related knee injury — took a toll on him. He cited frustration and said he was pushing himself too hard in the wrong direction. The Genesis victory acted as both as a salve and form of encouragement. The win helped point him back in the right direction.
“My big goal is to be a multiple major winner and I think the habit of winning is good for that,” Scott said.
Although his lone major championship remains his historic victory at the Masters in 2013 – when he became the first Australian to earn the green jacket – Scott has an exemplary record in the big events. He has 19 top-10 finishes in 74 starts in majors.
In 2019 he tied for eighth at the U.S. PGA Championship, tied for seventh at the U.S. Open Championship and won the Australian PGA Championship for the second time in his career. He was trending in the right direction when the COVID-19 pandemic forced competition to temporarily cease.
“I would like to think most of my achievements are still to come,” Scott said. “For me it’s about winning major championships. That’s the measure of a career, really in this game, but it’s always the process of getting there. You don’t just show up and win majors randomly. Maybe it can happen once. You can luck into one, but not multiple majors.
“To achieve what I want to achieve, I can’t leave it up to luck. There is a lot of work to get there, but I feel like I’m on the right track. There are lots of adjustments throughout my professional and personal life the last few years. Took me some time to just figure out how to balance everything out. I think I’m on a good track now.”
Scott is tied with Bruce Crampton as the third-winningest Australian on the PGA TOUR. Only Greg Norman (20) and Jim Ferrier (18) have more.
However, a second major championship would elevate Scott into a different sphere. There have been 223 major championship winners, but only 82 players – including Norman — have won multiple majors.
So how does that frame Scott’s credentials for eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame?
His current numbers mirror those of American Hal Sutton. Each has won The Players Championship and one major championship. But Sutton had only eight top-10 finishes in 68 major championship appearances and endured an inexplicable stretch of nine consecutive winless seasons during the prime of his career. Sutton was a finalist for inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 and will almost certainly be inducted soon.
Sutton has one item on his resume that Scott does not – captaincy of an international team. Sutton was the captain of the losing 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team and is still remembered for the ill-fated pairing of Woods and Mickelson on the first day of competition.
Scott has not yet been asked to be the captain of the International Presidents Cup team – largely because he’s still pivotal in the team’s chances as a player. He has made the team nine times and acted as an unofficial vice-captain for Ernie Els at the 2019 competition at Royal Melbourne in Australia. Scott was heartsick when the team squandered a big lead and watched the American team come back for a victory on his home soil. He is currently more concerned with helping the International team win the event than he is serving as captain.
“It will be incredibly disappointing if I played all these and never won a Presidents Cup,” he said. “I feel I’d be missing something. The last few years, I’ve put more of myself out there for the team, and so far it hasn’t yielded much of a result. It’s never fun leaving on Sunday with not having won the trophy.”
South African Trevor Immelman, also a Masters champion, has already agreed to be the team captain for 2021. Scott would likely be next in line to lead a team, possibly as soon as 2023.
In the meantime, he’s been helping add a touch of normalcy to his homeland during the COVID-19 shutdown. In May he hosted a live-streamed nine-hole match on Instagram against local professional Wayne Perske at Maleny Golf Club in Queensland. The match – with a $5 wager in the balance — ended all-square when Perske missed a putt on the final hole.
The stakes will be higher when Scott returns to the PGA TOUR later this summer. The amended 2019-20 schedule will conclude at the TOUR Championship, Sept. 4-7 at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. He just wants to be in the discussion. And he’s ready.
“I have a sense of calm, which has always suited me on the golf course,” Scott said. “I definitely walk on the course with a calmness. Maybe it’s confidence, but I say calmness.”