LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- After he had signed for a three-birdie, one-bogey 68 and had fulfilled his media obligations, Adam Scott walked to the practice putting green trailed by a few autograph-seekers. He signed his name, paused for a few pictures, then walked onto the green next to the Royal Lytham and St. Annes clubhouse. It was 8 p.m.
Scott’s caddie, Steve Williams, was waiting for him. Scott dropped three balls and aimed for a cup about 30 feet away. He made all three, looked at his coach, Brad Malone, and broke into a wide grin as he pulled his cap over his eyes. Scott, who leads the 141st Open by four shots over Graeme McDowell (67) and Brandt Snedeker (73), is having that kind of week.
“They don’t count on the practice green,” he said, but he’d made plenty that had counted, like the par-saving putts on the first and third holes Saturday.
Scott called those pars “huge” and added, “Just making some putts like that early in the round certainly frees you up and calms you down.”
It took him just five holes to tie the faltering Snedeker, who began the day with a one-shot lead, and six to pass him -- although Scott wasn’t so much passing Snedeker as he was standing still. Scott soon began to move, though, reaching double digits under par with a birdie at the par-5 seventh, then another at the par-4 eighth. He reached 12 under par with a birdie on the par-5 11th before giving a shot back on the par-4 13th to finish at 11 under through 54 holes.
His father, Phil, was having a smoke outside the clubhouse as Scott spoke to the print media, and he said of his son’s broom-handle putter, which Scott began using last year, “I think it’s been really great for his confidence.”
A few feet to Phil Scott’s right, a single pink rose rested against the base of the clubhouse’s north wall, with a photo of the late Seve Ballesteros, who won his first British Open at Lytham in 1979. The caption: “Thank you for the wonderful memories, Seve.”
Ballesteros was immensely popular at the Open, in part because, as an IMG agent once described it, the dashing Spaniard was “the housewife’s choice.” The preternaturally low-key Scott is no stranger to that brand of adulation, and has been romantically linked to Kate Hudson and, most recently, the tennis player Ana Ivanovic -- an on-again, off-again relationship that is over, according to his father.
Despite his status as a matinee idol, Scott has managed to stay mostly out of the newspapers, and that’s by design. “He keeps his own council,” Phil says. Adam rented a house in Lytham for the Open and has spent a quiet week there with his dad and younger sister, Casie, as well as coach Malone and caddie Williams.
They have a caterer and have been eating in. Scott killed time Saturday before his 3:20 p.m. start by watching rugby on TV. “There’s a ping-pong table at the house,” Phil said, “but I don’t think anyone’s been on it this week.”
But Scott was on the practice green Saturday night as the crowds made their way home, walking toward the sleepy retirement village of St. Annes, perhaps to try their luck with the local restaurants as stressed servers and cooks struggled to cope with the onslaught of people. Nearly 2,000 more people have attended this Open than attended the 2011 Open at Royal St. George’s.
Almost all of the players had left the grounds. Scott was working on one side of the practice green, Snedeker on the other, when a huge, loud scrum of people came trundling toward the rectangle-shaped putting surface. At the center of it was Tiger Woods (70, six under), who signed a few autographs, and his agent and publicist, who smiled at the chaos enveloping their client. It was 8:07.
Williams, who had wandered off the green to chat with Phil Scott, walked back to it and stood off to the side, by Scott’s bag. Woods wordlessly walked past his former caddie of more than 10 years and staked out his own corner of the green in which to work. Joe LaCava, Woods’s new caddie, set up just off the other side of the green from Williams. Snedeker chatted with his agent, Scott with his coach. Woods spoke to no one as he stroked five-footers into the cup farthest from the few remaining fans, as single-minded as ever in his quest for a 15th major. (Sean Foley, his coach, had called it a day.)
As darkness fell on Lytham, Scott, who turned 32 this week, watched one more putt dive into the hole, put his broomstick back in the bag and made for the parking lot. His coach and family and caddie mobilized around him, just as Snedeker and Woods would soon exit the course with their own retinues. Caterers and careers were waiting.