Adam Scott on life since his collapse at Royal Lytham and the potential belly putter ban
Shortly after Adam Scott did the unthinkable at the 2012 British Open -- bogeying the final four holes at Royal Lytham to hand the claret jug to Ernie Els -- he and his team convened back at Scott's rental house. The Australian thanked his advisers for their hard work, and they in turn lauded their boss for his fine play. But really, words could provide little comfort. "It was a bit of a fizzer,"
Scott says now. "There wasn't anything to say, was there?" The next day, he and his father, Phil, a former golf pro, hopped a plane to Scott's home in the Swiss Alps, where Scott hibernated on his couch and tore through two seasons of the crime-drama The Killing. "Watched about 20 hours of it in three days," he says. His catharsis complete, he visited the practice range at his local club, Crans-sur-Sierre, and picked up where he had left off at the Open -- well, through 68 holes of the Open, anyway. "I swung it just like I did at Lytham," Scott says. "I felt really good about things." Scott, who has since ascended to No. 5 in the world, still feels good about things. In a wide-ranging interview, he revealed why he won't let the "torturous" finish at Lytham define him, how Tiger Woods made Scott feel "inadequate," and why Steve Williams can be a tough caddie to please.
Have you watched a replay of the final round at Lytham?
No. I know what I did out there. It's very clear in my mind, and I've taken the bits I need to learn from that. I really believe that there were so many positives that I don't need to dwell on it that much.
But others have dwelled on it. It was a stunning turn of events.
Well, yeah, I can imagine watching it was shocking and hard to watch -- seeing a guy slowly bleed to death coming in. It was like an hour long. Torturous. [Laughs] At the end of the day, though, I was just so happy to be playing at that level in a major. It had been a long journey for me to get there -- from 20 years old to 32 -- to actually perform the way I believed, or sort of believed, I could.
Are you surprised by how long that journey took?
Yeah, I am. But I can see why it did now. I've obviously learned a lot about how to manage my career over those 12 years. I look back with no regrets at all, but I certainly look back at points in my career where I wish I'd done things differently. It might have made a difference.
What would you have done differently?
In 2004, after winning the Players, I thought I was on the springboard to becoming a legitimate top player in the world. I felt like winning a big tournament like that could have really kickstarted me if I had the right things in place, and I don't think I did.
What kind of things?
Golfing routine, practice, a bit more structure. Everything had happened so smoothly in my career to that point and everything had gone so well. I just kind of figured, Well, I'll win a major next. Here we go. I'm 23. It's just what's going to happen. And that just didn't happen. Ultimately, that's my own fault, but I just don't think I knew well enough at that point exactly what it took [to win majors]. And also, if you think back to that time, and in the four or five years leading up to that, Tiger had made us all feel insignificant. It was a very different mindset then from, say, now, when there isn't one guy making the rest of us feel inadequate.
Tiger really made you feel inadequate?
For 10 years in my career, I honestly believed I'd never be world No. 1. It looked impossible. Vijay [Singh] broke him down in 2004. He played out of his shoes and he was No. 1 for what -- 10 weeks or something? [Laughs] So I think it was never in anyone's mind that it was doable, if they were really honest. That has changed over the last couple of years, which I think was great for my career. I kind of needed some motivation, especially after playing poorly in '09 and then coming back and playing better in 2010. Seeing other guys had made it to world No. 1 -- it was good motivation for me. It was a nice little kick at the right time.
You've spoken of the "numbness" you felt at Lytham. Are you surprised you didn't feel more regret?
Yeah, it was probably just shock a little bit and therefore numbness. I didn't feel bad. I honestly felt like I'd played like I won. Even bogeying the last four holes wasn't like shocking stuff, really. I hit two pretty average shots -- [the approach] on 17 and [the tee shot on] 18 -- but it wasn't wildly-off-line, horrendous golf. It was very odd. It was just one of those things where I didn't win from such a good position, and I was just a bit shocked by the whole outcome, I guess. When you're in shock, you don't have too much feeling. Initially it wasn't heartbreaking. I've seen Ernie a few times with the jug since and that's a little harder to swallow. I almost pictured it in my mind that I was going to be holding it.
Were you having those thoughts of victory over the last few holes?
Not that late, but probably briefly at some point in the final round. I felt like I was very in control and doing what I needed to do. Even the night before you can't help but have a thought, Okay, good round tomorrow and I get to hold the jug.
Did you shed any tears after the Open? After Rory McIlroy's collapse at the 2011 Masters, he wept the first time he spoke with his mother.
No, I wasn't upset like that at all. I wasn't even really mad. I was just so happy to play great in a major. Eighteen months ago I got my head really stuck in the process of getting better and taking my game to that level where it can hold up for four days in a major. The process became as enjoyable as any result I had over the last 18 months. I loved the practice. I loved the work I did with Brad [Malone], my coach. He committed 100 percent to me. And we both took it by the neck and got into it. I was really just so happy to see the results of what we set out to do. But, no, there were no tears at all.
You seem in command of your emotions. When's the last time you cried?
I can cry at movies, and certainly a couple times in my life I've been upset over girls. But I'm not a big crier, I've got to say. Though I think if I was Rory's age when it happened, I probably would have. I feel like I've got a pretty good perspective on where things are. This is golf, I love it, I've put everything into it, but I'm not going to let what happened at the Open define who I am and break me down. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole week. Maybe the way things finished was a bit deer-in- the-headlights, but that's not going to define me.
Don't you worry that it might, though, especially if you never win a major?
Oh, I hope it's too early to think about that. Like I said, I'm pretty sure that won't be my last chance at a major. The only way I can combat that is get out quick and win the Masters next year. I've had good results at the Masters the past few years; I need to pick up on that, pick up on the good stuff from the last two majors I've played, and try and win one quick so I don't have to answer questions about Lytham for the next 20 years. [Laughs]
You and Sergio Garcia were both expected to win multiple major titles. Have you ever talked to him about the burden of trying to win one?
We haven't really gotten into it, but I definitely feel I have a good understanding of Sergio. I played with him at the  PGA and it looked like he was hating the game of golf, to be honest. He was having a hard time on the golf course -- not with his game, his game looked great. He was just having a hard time mentally. He pretty much threw in the towel on Friday, and I said to him afterward, "You just can't do that, your game is so good." It's not just potentially good, it's good. He's hitting the ball beautifully, his putting stroke looked as a good as ever. I said, "You just need to believe it, and just have fun. Don't do this to yourself." Sure enough, he goes and wins in Greensboro the next week.
So he took your advice to heart.
Well, I don't know if he did. I got no thanks. [Laughs] None expected, though.
Golf's governing bodies are considering banning anchored putters. How would you fare if you had to revert back to a traditional putter tomorrow?
I'd putt better than I did before, absolutely. The long putter has taught me how to putt again. I don't see [putter length] as a crucial thing for me at all. I think I've won 18 tournaments with a short putter and one with a long putter, so maybe I'm the idiot. [Laughs] So I don't believe it would be a hard thing for me to go back to the short putter. I could do it this week, and I think I would putt better than I did in 2010 and 2009.
What's your gut feeling? Will they ban anchored putters?
My gut feeling is the rule will get changed, but I don't see a valid reason for it.
Purists argue that...
I know what purists say. They want to protect the traditions of the game. But that's not even an argument. Otherwise, we'd be playing with hickory shafts.
Do you feel any animosity in the locker room from players who use standard-length putters?
Absolutely. Some guys don't like it. That's because they haven't putted well with it, or they haven't tried it. That's my argument -- it's still a learned skill. It's not like you just pick it up and make putts. You have to learn how to use it.
What does Steve Williams bring to your game?
He brings a level of intensity. He's focused on one thing: winning. That might be out of habit from working with Tiger. He has very strong beliefs about how to play the game and how he's seen the game played over 30 years. We've married some of that with my strengths to get more out of me. Also him being from New Zealand and me being from Australia, our cultural backgrounds are not dissimilar. So at the root of it all, I think there's a good level of understanding of one another. The one hard thing for Steve to get his head around is that's it's a process for me. Steve's a black-and-white guy. The stuff in the middle doesn't compute.
What do you mean?
He sees that my game is good, but he doesn't understand why I don't win every week. [Laughs]
He got spoiled working with Tiger.
Right. So he's got to be patient, and I've got to step up. That's where it's at.
Does he get frustrated with you?
At times he does. When Tiger played good, he won. But when I play good, I don't always win. It's a very fine line, as we all know. It's a game of inches. You're a shot here or a chip there from the momentum. He just expects things to happen. Things are very simple for him. But it's not always the case for me. [Laughs] But every player-caddie relationship has to find that happy medium somewhere, and I think we do a pretty good job of it.
Williams put you on the hot seat last year when a racially charged comment he made about Woods at a dinner in Shanghai went public. Did you consider letting him go after that?
No, I never thought about that. The incident was extremely unfortunate and I'm not going to do myself any favors by talking about it a lot, but I think most people believe it was a closed room that night. Other things were said in the room that some would find offensive, but the only thing that was taken out of the room was Steve's comments -- not smart comments, I might point out.
How extreme was the pressure on you? Fred Couples, among others, said you should have fired Williams.
Yeah, and I had to speak to Fred about that, because Fred wasn't there. Fred's just getting told a story by someone, and stories become more inaccurate the longer they go on. I was disappointed to hear Fred say that, and I wish that he would have spoken to me. So I spoke to him in Sydney about it to clear the air, because I didn't want to have any animosity with Fred, with the Presidents Cup and all that going on. Steve did the right thing and sorted it out with who he needed to sort it out with, and we've moved on.
You used to date tennis star Ana Ivanovic, and now Rory McIlroy dates tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Has he come to you for relationship advice?
No, and I don't know that he should. I think that I should get advice off him. [Laughs] Golf advice. Relationship advice. He seems super-happy, and it's having a good effect on him.
Can McIlroy be the next Tiger?
Yes and no. Yes, Rory's got that much talent; I think he can win a lot of majors. But overall tournaments, no, he won't win as many as Tiger. I think there are more guys who can win in a given week and that was not the case in Tiger's prime.
You were a Butch Harmon guy. Do you believe Tiger's swing was at its best under Harmon's watch?
Tiger's swing in 2000 was phenomenal; you can't replicate it. It was his natural talent, flexibility and strength mixed together, plus power that no one else was generating. But obviously Tiger didn't want to stay with it; he's made some really radical changes. I don't know what's natural about [his swing] today.
Could you ever see yourself blowing up your swing and starting again?
Only if I couldn't stop hitting a hook or slice or whatever. Then I'd have to try something that's so foreign to me to prevent my natural tendency. But I think in Tiger's case, it seemed to get to a point where he needed a new challenge -- that's how good he was, or is.
He got bored.
Yeah, we were all saying that. You think back to 2002 -- what else is this guy going to do? And then he does this radical [overhaul]. It's hard to understand because I'm not on that high a level. But he's not alone. Padraig Harrington changed his swing at the height of his powers. I was there at the Players [in 2010] after Harrington had won three majors. I watched him hit balls, and I said, "Oh, you hit draws now?" He said, "No, I've just started working on drawing the ball." I was like, "Why? You just won three majors in 18 months." We're all a bit crazy. It's amazing what the game will do to us.
You pros are as nuts as the rest of us.
Yeah, I'm the same way. If I'm hitting draws, I just want to hit fades. If I'm hitting fades and I can't hit a draw, I just want to hit draws again. It'll drive you crazy. You're better off just trying to hit it straight. [Laughs]