KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — After 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy shot 80 on Sunday at the 2011 Masters, he probably won over as many fans with his humor and graciousness as he would have if he had won.
Adam Scott, coming to this PGA Championship three weeks after his own heartbreaking loss at the British Open, is experiencing something similar at Kiawah Island, where he's been greeted with warm cheers on almost every green. He's always been popular with golf fans — especially the female ones — for his easy charm and film-star looks, but at Kiawah the galleries look thicker and the cheers sound throatier.
"I may have won a few more fans," Scott said Friday. "Unfortunately, it was from not winning the tournament, but maybe I can change that here over the weekend."
Scott shot 68-75 over the first two rounds and is one under par heading into the weekend, one of best showings of anyone who got the Thursday afternoon/Friday morning draw, which featured wind and more wind. "Consider 75 kind of a par round of golf out there today," Scott told a scrum of reporters Friday. "It's really very tough."
Scott handled the wind deftly for most of his round with shots like his approach on the sixth hole, where he punched a short iron to 20 feet below the hole and made birdie while playing partners Hunter Mahan and Sergio Garcia had their shots blown right of the green. He wasn't so lucky on the par-5 seventh. His tee shot sailed into a patch of dune grass so thick it took several minutes to find. As he and Mahan searched the thick dunes, Scott's caddie Steve Williams bellowed to the crowd, "Did anyone see it?"
After Scott found his ball, he took an unplayable lie and then fired a 2-iron that veered off-line toward the gallery, hitting a woman hard on the head and knocking her to the ground, where she stayed for several minutes before being helped to a first-aid cart. Scott crouched next to her before playing his next shot.
"I just wanted to make sure she was OK, and luckily enough, there was a doctor standing right next to her until the medics got there," Scott said. He admitted that it was "a good break" for him because the ball ricocheted off the woman's head back near the fairway, from where he salvaged a bogey. Scott made another bogey on the ninth hole, his 18th, after missing a five-foot putt to save par.
"I made a couple of errors, but it is going to happen on a day like today," Scott said. "You've just got to stick with it, keep grinding, and, like I said, I'm not disappointed with a 75 today."
He also keeps insisting that he's not too disappointed with his loss at the 2012 British Open, where he looked as uncatchable as Usain Bolt until he bogeyed the last four holes and finished second to Ernie Els.
"For the first time in my career, I really led the tournament from start to finish, and that's a real positive for me," Scott said Wednesday. "I think I'm on the right track, and I can take all that good stuff that I did leading into Lytham away with me. And now coming into the PGA, I get a chance a few weeks later to get right back in there, and there's nothing more that I'd like than a chance to win this week."
Scott said he hadn't watched any replays of the 2012 British Open finish — who could blame him? — but that "it must have looked horrible from some of the reactions I've had from people over the last couple weeks."
"I think everybody felt for me more than I felt for myself," Scott said.
Scott's childhood hero and sometime mentor is fellow Australian Greg Norman, who has experienced more major heartbreak than most. Norman called Scott the night of his British Open loss and told him to take everything he can from the experience.
"He said to be really proactive and analyze what I want out of it, take what I want out of it, see what I have to work on," Scott said. "He pushed me hard to make this a catalyst for a start of a career in majors that's so good, and I really believe that's what it can be for me. I've proved to myself that I'm a guy who can go out and win these."
But in talking about Norman, Scott admitted that staying positive isn't always easy.
"The biggest thing he's always told me is to believe in myself," Scott said, and then paused. "It's sometimes harder to do than you think."
This weekend Scott will get another chance to prove that nice guys can finish first.