FOR some, playing the fairways and greens of the Old Course serves up a near spiritual experience but all Adam Scott is hoping for is a cathartic one.
A man who has been so close so often at The Open, if the heartbreak of the near misses were not so tangible, it might be easy enough to fool people into believing the Australian had actually completed the task. But few can forget how close he came in 2012, piecing together three rounds in the 60s before he undermined himself on that final round, his score of 75 allowing Ernie Els to lope past him.
It was not a Jean Van de Velde-style meltdown and it was not the play-off torment bestowed on several others by this testing and changeable major. It could not even be described as the cruel rewriting of a fairytale ending. It was just one of those things. Having led the field after the first round and reasserted himself on the third day to lead the board as they set off on the final day, he fell short on the greens, while Els rose to the challenge.
“I definitely let that one slip and I would love to be sitting here having won The Open, but I’m going to have to work hard for it,” admitted the man who turned 35 on Thursday.
“Of course, if you could do it over, you’d do something different because I’d want a different result. But it was a huge learning experience for me in exactly what is it like at that point in a major championship. I’d never really been there before. Although I’d come close at the Masters the year before, it was not quite the same. You know, there’s certainly no blame to put on anyone at all. Major championships coming down the wire, you don’t have to be that much off to lose like I did.
“I did see all the positives. I played so well and, really, it was the first time I’d ever kind of controlled the outcome of a major championship. I guess it was all about what I did coming down the stretch. That really did hurt but I was so happy with the way I played generally that week, that I could lift myself above anywhere I’d been before and the field for that week, that I just wanted another crack at it. So, by the time the PGA came around a month later or so, I was moving on and hoping to do the same kind of thing at the PGA, and it didn’t quite happen, but then it did eight months later at the Masters.
“I probably carried that chip into the Masters and maybe it got a little bit smaller, but still, I feel like I’ve been really close to lifting this trophy, and I’m very motivated to do it this weekend now that I’m in this position and I’d be very disappointed if I never did in my career when I got so close.”
A year on from that Lytham disappointment, he threatened yet again. This time it was at Muirfield. He finished third. Last year, he got himself into the mix again but it was too little, too late, wrapping things up tied for fifth. In what has become almost predictable, perhaps even inevitable given his desire to right wrongs and the fact he has the game to elevate himself high in the standings, he is back in contention again this year. Nestled a few shots behind the leaders, he shrugged off the weather delay to shoot a second-round five-under-par 67, which might have been even better had a well-read putt at the Road Hole not come up fractionally short.
One of those who has had to address his putting ahead of the end-of-year change of rules regarding the belly putter, he tweaked the design of his in the build up to the US Open and, although the conditions have made the greens tough, he is feeling confident they won’t be his Achilles heel again this year.
“I’m trying to play my way in with a chance. There’s so much golf to be played and I’m excited about this opportunity this weekend. The last few years at The Open have been some of my favourite golf. Getting into contention at this championship and having a chance to lift the Claret Jug is what it’s all about.”
In the past, having Steve Williams on his bag has been an asset, the combination bringing out the best in Scott at Augusta as they soothed some of that Lytham pain by winning the green jacket. After a parting of the ways, they have been reunited this summer, the heady mix of some begging, flattery, the Old Course and that shot at redemption luring his caddie back. The decision to metaphorically prostrate himself before Williams has been vindicated.
On the bag when Tiger Woods won his titles at the home of golf in 2000 and 2005, he knows the pin positions, he understands the nuances of the weather changes and thrives on the atmosphere and the special platform it gives them to join an elite group of champions.
“He’s been coming here a long time. He has a very good feel for it,” added Scott. “He does a lot of homework on this golf course every day and makes sure I’m in the best position I can be.”
Without him he might still be close but, while he would like to believe he has it within him to triumph regardless, he is not sure he would be close enough to make the next two days count. “I’d like to think so, for my own sake, but it was the right call for me to make to get him back out and instil a bit of confidence in my game and get back in that flow. He’s a huge factor in the way I’ve played in the last few years.”