Adam Scott: Looking Good

Adam Scott: Looking Good

"Your career is defined by how many majors you've won."
Steve Read

Perched near the very top of the World Ranking, high up on a ledge dangling his feet over the head of Vijay Singh [ranked 12th] and nipping at the shirttails of Phil Mickelson [second], sits major-less Adam Scott, the young Aussie golfer you might more readily associate with his impressive Burberry threads than his devastating long-iron play. Ranked No. 6 in the world, Scott is playing at the level of superstardom. And though he’s won a few important tournaments and consistently finds himself in the top 10s and even the top 3s, he’s yet to etch a serious mark on a serious trophy. Eight years on Tour with five wins but no major, no big victory for the homeland that’s been waiting for an ascendant to the throne since Scott’s idol, Greg Norman, stepped down. But no worries, mate: fellow Aussie and close friend Geoff Ogilvy lifted the burden off Scott’s back at Winged Foot in 2006. That doesn’t mean Scott’s resting easy; he’s in that awkward limbo between being promising and proving he was worth the promise. He may like his pints and his lazy wave riding on the beaches by his Australian home, but this kid’s got some gold to claim for his country if he wants to be, as he says he does, “the greatest Australian golfer.”

Can you pinpoint the day you decided you wanted to be a pro golfer? I wanted to be a pro golfer since I was 6 or 7, watching Greg Norman play in the Masters every year, with ’87 being my first big memory of it. But I was interested in all other kinds of sports at that point, too. I quit tennis when I was about 12, and then I only played golf after that.

What’s your biggest regret in the game? A tournament when you didn’t play your hardest? To be honest, I don’t have too many regrets; I think being a young player you have to look at your mistakes as learning experiences rather than beating yourself up. But that gets old to a point [laughs]. You want to win more, you want to do better.

So where did you think you could have done better? Off the top of my head, I think maybe last year, the [2006] Barclays Classic at Westchester. I was disappointed I didn’t win that event. I was leading by one with five to go and I finished second [to Vijay Singh]. Yeah, that was a shame.

What went wrong? I don’t know, maybe it was a bit of a mental lapse. Maybe just taking it a bit too easy out there, not focusing enough. You know, there’s a fine line between trying too hard and not trying hard enough.

You’ve never been ranked higher than you were this year [Scott has been as high as No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings]. You’re in your eighth season as a Tour pro and there’s been a lot of hype about you being the next big thing, and you’ve won a couple of big ones, but the majors are what define legends. And while you’ve played well in a few of them, you haven’t exactly had Tiger and Phil shaking in their boots. So, do you accept that you’re a veteran player now, and beyond the phase where, as so many players like to say, ‘I’m still learning how to win’? Oh yeah, I think I am beyond that. But you know, I’ve won over 10 tournaments around the world and on various tours and I’ve won a couple of big events on the PGA Tour. But I definitely agree: your career is defined by how many majors you’ve won, and at the end of the day, that’s really all you’re going to be remembered for. No one’s going to remember if I won 15 Tour events unless I win a major or two. Certainly that’s what we’re playing for. But I do expect, in the future, to know what to do when I get in a position to win one.

Where do you see yourself ending up in the history books alongside your contemporaries — among whom you must count Tiger, who’s only five years older? [Laughs] Right, well, I’m gonna be a long way behind Tiger in the history books. But that’s OK.

It’s OK? See, he’s set unrealistic expectations on everyone’s part. For us he’s set unrealistic expectations because I was 16 when he turned pro, and I thought I’d be able to do what he did. But I realized pretty quick once I got out here that that wasn’t going to happen. And he also set unrealistic expectations on the part of the media for the next crop of young guys, and that included me, and the world expected us to be just like Tiger. And all of us young guys who were hyped, there’s about 10 of us probably, I think we realized it was unrealistic to try to match Tiger. I certainly did.

Do you ever wish he wasn’t playing? No. I really don’t. I think it’s great for the game and it’s a good challenge. And you know, he wins a lot, but he doesn’t win every time. So we have a chance to beat him. And you know, as long as I’m in the history books, that’s all that matters [laughs].

Do you give much thought to your legacy? Do you ever think about the idea that someday a bunch of Aussies will be knocking back Victoria Bitters saying, ‘That Peter Thomson was something, and Norman — eh, he should have won more — but that Adam Scott, he showed ’em all’? Yeah, I mean, to be honest, I’d like to be the greatest Australian golfer. I think it’s something that’s kind of achievable. But what do you base that on? Majors or all tournaments won? Greg Norman won 90 golf tournaments, so I’m kind of a long way off [laughs]. Norman won two majors , Peter Thomson won five majors, but, you know, just being put in the same breath as those guys, that’s pretty good as well.

You told one of our reporters last year that when you’re not on Tour you like to play golf with your mates in Australia and drink a few beers and have some laughs. That’s not the kind of thing you hear Tiger saying. World Rankings aside, do you think you possess the level of intensity necessary to run at the top of the game? Absolutely. My way of relaxing is just not the same as Tiger’s. I think I showed that to myself last year. Even though I didn’t win as much as I probably could have last year, I did push myself pretty hard until I did win. To keep pushing myself eight or nine months out of the year is good for me to see what I’m capable of mentally, and to keep up that intensity all year. Obviously Tiger had the best year last year. Jim Furyk had a really good year, too, consistency-wise. But I think I was right up there with Jim; I had a lot of top 3s and top 10s, and a win, so I was happy with last year. I think I showed myself that I had that intensity that’s needed to challenge the top guys.

But what about that psychotic devotion to winning, where winning is more than winning, and becomes life? Winning definitely becomes addictive; that’s why it’s important to win at least once every year. Otherwise you get in this rut of, “OK, I didn’t win again, but I did pretty good,” and you go and pick up a check and you’re happy enough with that. And that’s a bad way to get, if you want to win majors, and you want to become one of the best golfers. You need to win golf tournaments — that’s what the best players do.

Do you still have a steady girlfriend [Marie Kojzar]? Any wedding plans? Yes. And no.

Are you sure? Yes.

Australians have a reputation for really enjoying the kill in sports — in rugby, for example — and have a natural pride when it comes time for a fight. Or at least that’s how most Americans see them. Would you say that’s accurate? Yeah, I would. I think we’re a big sporting country; sports are promoted big in Australia. Whether that’s on a golf course in a non-physical sense or what, I don’t think any of us [Australians] would back down from a head-to-head battle.

Have you ever been in a fistfight in your life, or a pub dustup? If so, how’d that turn out for you? Um, I’ve managed to stay out of them mostly. Back in high school, though, yeah we had some good fights. And I got jumped at home once, but I won that fight by 150 meters! [Laughs] I was out of there pretty quick!

You have a reputation for being very nice. Are you tough enough to get to the top? I’m nice on the outside, but on the inside … I’m not saying that I’m two-faced, but I certainly have a fire burning inside of me for golf.

How about outside of golf? Well, I don’t think you need to be an a–hole to be successful.

You’re close with Geoff Ogilvy. It has to sting a little that Ogilvy won a major first. Not at all.

Come on, really? Of course, you’re happy for your friend. But it’s a natural human reaction to have a sense of ‘Damnit, I wish it were me.’

A sense of jealousy, considering you’re both fairly young and both Australians, and buddies. No, because I’m still pretty confident that I’m going to win a major, or two, or three, in my career.

OK, but wouldn’t you have preferred it if it was you instead of him? You first, then maybe Ogilvy second? Not really. I think it was important for an Australian to win a major. We were getting a lot of pressure from back home, like, “Who’s gonna do it [win a major]?” And I’m happy it was Geoff. Well-deserved. My time will come. That’s for sure.

So Ogilvy’s U.S. Open win definitely lifted the burden off your shoulders? The weight of Australia’s major hopes? Absolutely. I think that, if anything, it spurs the rest of us on. And it certainly makes me more determined. I want to win one, too, obviously, but there’s kind of a — not a rivalry — but, more like inspiration amongst all the Aussie guys, to see one of us do something good or successful spurs the rest of us on. I think all of us — me and [Rod] Pampling and Stuart [Appleby] and just all of us — are thinking, “Now we want to win a major, too.”

The Aussies are kicking ass on Tour. Supposedly the Australian ‘grooming’ process for cultivating great golf champs is fantastic. What do you do that we don’t? Why aren’t your young guys afraid to win like the young Americans? Well, I don’t think that young Americans are afraid. I just think we [Australians] are taught how to play the game better. We just learn how to play golf. We find our own way of doing it.

How do you mean? Well, it’s set up very well in Australia. It’s a good balance between coaching and physical strengthening and psychological work. I think it’s really just the balance. And also, it’s a little more relaxed, that’s the attitude we take. There’s a bit less pressure [than in the U.S.].

Multiple major winners sit below you in the World Ranking — like Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh. Do you feel like you’re a better player than those guys? It’s kind of hard to answer that question. No, I don’t think I’m a better player. But I do think I’m as good as them when we’re all playing well. They’re both at least 10 years older than me, so they’ve obviously achieved a lot more and have a lot more experience. But I don’t think I’m a better player, though I certainly think I can compete with them when I play well.

At what point do you transition from being a young, fearless phenom to not-so-young-guy-who-needs-to-win-a-major-to-gain-credibilty? If you had to put a time frame on it, an age? I’d probably be pretty concerned if I was 35 and hadn’t won a major.

What are your expectations? I try to keep them realistic. Like I said before, thinking of being as good as Tiger, that’s a little unrealistic. I know I’m not gonna win 20 majors. Maybe 10 [laughs].

What’s the greatest golf tip you’ve ever gotten? The best golf tip I ever got was a chipping tip I got from Greg Norman the week I won the [2004] Players Championship. It was ironic, because I ended up chipping on three of the last four holes, and then obviously after I hit it in the water on 18 I had to pitch and putt to win. So maybe I wouldn’t have gotten there without that tip.

Don’t keep us in the dark! What was the tip? It was about shortening my chipping action, being a little more aggressive through the ball and using my knees a little bit. A little like the way Norman does it, and it was truly a timely little piece of advice.

If you had to pick a character in a movie that most closely resembled your own personality, who would it be? Hmm, this is a tough question. I need to think about that. Uh, probably you know, some real romantic heartthrob kind of guy. [Laughs] I’d have to get multiple choice on that one.

OK … Hugh Grant in Notting Hill or … No! Definitely not Hugh Grant!

OK. In the movie, Closer, the Clive Owen character, the bad guy, or Jude Law, the simpering romantic? OK. Probably Jude Law.

How often do you get recognized in the U.S. away from the golf course? Like in a mall or a store? Not very often. But sometimes at sporting events. I went to a fight in Las Vegas a couple of weekends ago, and some guy recognized me there.

Do you like when that happens? Or would you prefer anonymity? Well, I like kind of getting around with nobody knowing. I can get up to more trouble that way. So I’d choose being anonymous.

We Americans identify you as one of the great Aussie golfers. Do you more closely identify with being an Australian, or with being a golfer? I’m a proud Australian and I probably think of myself as an Australian before a golfer, but other people might not.

Is there a new Australian golfer on the block whom we may not have heard of but who may be the next big thing out of your country? Well I think you’ve heard of him. His name’s Andrew Buckle. I’ve been touting Bucks now for a few years. We grew up playing golf together. He played really well in Asia the last couple of years and he played very well on the Nationwide Tour last year. I always knew he’d be a good player. And I expect him to keep going, to come over here and do well, too.

What’s one of your favorite courses in the world? Cypress Point in California. I just love it.

If you had to pick the major you think you have the best shot at winning, which would it be and why? I’ve always said the U.S. Open, because when I play well I drive the ball really well, and that might help me at a U.S. Open. But if I could only win one major, I’d want it to be Augusta.

And when are you going to win the U.S. Open? June, next year.

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