Don’t ask Adam Scott to choose between golf and surfing. “They’re too different,” he says of his twin passions. One is his livelihood. The other, he says, is “Adam time.” “Surfing is a way for me to switch off and get away — from the whole world, really.” In 2008, the dashing Aussie needed an escape: he parted ways with his girlfriend of seven years, developed ulcers on his tonsils, broke his hand in a car door, wrenched his knee while wading out of the ocean, and for the second straight season didn’t notch a single top 10 in the majors. Scott sums up the year in one word: “Frustrating.” (Thus far, 2009 hasn’t been much better.) But he also says he has rededicated himself to winning, and after enduring last year’s setbacks he feels primed to catch a new wave of success. Say aloha to the new Adam Scott.
For a guy who supposedly has it easy, you’ve hit a rough stretch.
It was the first bump in the road in some ways. There had been tough times on the golf course before, but 2008 was frustrating. I ended a seven-year relationship [with Marie Kozjar, a Swedish woman Scott met when she was Thomas Bjorn’s nanny], and I found that very difficult. A few weeks later I broke my hand. Then I got sick again. Nothing was really going my way and all the while I kept trying to play the big events — the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, the PGA — and I couldn’t get prepared for them properly. It got to the point where I was doing more damage by playing than not playing.
Was the broken hand from a wild night out or was it just an innocent injury?
It was a night out and having fun and a careless mistake by me clambering around and getting my hand caught in the car. But look, accidents happen. It was unfortunate.
On the surface, you don’t appear to have the obsessive drive to win like Tiger does. What motivates you?
Winning. That’s what we’re here to do. But we play a sport where you spend most of your time losing. There’s only one winner. In tennis you go head-to-head and get to the fourth round and then lose. You’ve won three matches so you’ve won something. Tiger is the most winning guy out here and he wins 25 or 30 percent of the time. That’s losing 70 percent of the time. But that’s what motivates me to play, to win.
Your coach, Butch Harmon, has said that you should have won a major by now. What’s holding you back?
It’s hard to pinpoint because I’d definitely like to change that. Ever since I turned pro, it’s just been a steady climb and I probably just rolled along for five or six years thinking, “Yeah, everything’s improving, I’m doing everything all right, I’m winning tournaments, I guess I’m just going to win a major one of those weeks I play good.” It was all just going to happen and it just never has. That’s why what I’m trying to do now is tick off all these boxes. Because I feel like now is my time. I’ve got 10 years experience playing these things. That counts for something. I think now I’ll go through this process and leave no stone unturned.
Do you feel like you press?
No. I feel like there’s been too much focus on it, on the majors and trying to be playing great going into a major. On two or three occasions, I’ve won the week before or the week after a major, so obviously the game is there.
Do you think it’s a question of heart?
No. I just haven’t played well in a major. Well, I have played well at some majors, but I seem to run 20th all the time, or 25th, and it’s a couple shots a day that’s the difference between being there and being in the hunt. I just have to improve on some areas. For example, at Augusta I need to chip better.
David Feherty has said that ‘some players don’t want the responsibility of winning majors.’ Do you know what he means by that?
Not really. I think when you win a major more expectations get put on you. But for me, I think it would feel less, and probably for Sergio [Garcia], too. Because I think he’s proven — and I’m not trying to speak for Sergio — that there’s no doubt he’s a great player and he can win big events. Winning a major would lower expectations so maybe that’s why the struggle for him is to shut everybody up.
What needs to happen for you to consider 2009 a successful year?
The things I want to accomplish this year are simple: I want to win. I need to be prepared as best as possible for each event, and I’m not going to play unless I’m prepared. Then I need to map out what I need to do practice-wise, physical training-wise, mental training-wise, and tick off all the boxes. If I do that, then even if I get out here and I don’t perform as well as I can, then I know I’ve done all I can that week. Most importantly, I just want to enjoy playing and have a better attitude out here. Last year, after playing crappy for a few months, my attitude on the course was getting dull and I didn’t want to play golf like that.
You’ve said breaking up with your girlfriend hurt your game last year.
It did. We had a long relationship and it was hard to break up. We’d been together a long time.
What’s your Facebook status now?
I don’t have Facebook.
Are you in a relationship?
Right now I’m single.
Is meeting someone and settling down one of your personal goals?
No, I don’t really think I’m in that place. I don’t really think about stuff like that. I don’t plan it. That stuff just happens.
You were photographed with Kate Hudson on a beach in January. What was it like being caught in the tabloid spotlight?
I was very uncomfortable. It was a situation I really don’t like being in. She deals with it all the time and I can’t imagine how that is. It must be tough to live your life like that.
Did you have a romantic relationship with Hudson?
A romantic relationship? No.
Do questions about your personal life irritate you?
Yes, I mean I’m uncomfortable sitting here talking about my personal life, absolutely. I really only want to be talked about for my golf.
Did the other guys on Tour have some fun with you when you were appearing in People and the gossip columns?
I got worn out about it pretty good [laughs]. I’m sure it was entertainment for them.
You describe surfing as an escape, but isn’t it really about the danger and the adrenaline?
No. Because I don’t really put myself in that position. I know my ability in surfing. At some point you’ve got to take off on something, but I don’t charge big waves. I’m less of an adrenaline junkie than I once was. Surfing had that element with me for a while, but it’s less and less now. I’m not going out there to scare myself.
Do your managers ever say, ‘Enough with the surfing! You’re going to get hurt and I’m out of a job’?
[Laughs] Yeah, Shelly [Ryan], my U.S. media manager, has made the point that I should be cautious, but I’ve never gotten hurt surfing, knock on wood. Like I said, I try not to put myself in a position where I hurt myself.
You’re good pals with Geoff Ogilvy. When did you two meet?
I think we met in 1995 when he was just finishing up as a junior. A great story about Geoff [comes from the time] we were at the 1998 U.S. Amateur at Oak Hill in Rochester. We’d all qualified and Geoff was going to go to Q School for the European Tour at the end of the year. But when you’re an amateur, the U.S. Amateur is it. It’s the biggest tournament in the world. I was 17 at the time, and I was buzzing about being able to play in this thing. And Geoff woke up on the morning of the first round and he had a bad back. He walked down out of the hotel and made a couple swings in the garden. Then he went back into the hotel, called the tournament to say he couldn’t play, and got back into bed like it was no big deal at all. I was like, “What the hell — I can’t believe this.” And then a month later he got through Q School in Europe and had his European Tour card. That’s what I think of Geoff. He’s got things in perspective and he knows the big picture. He knew that the big picture for him was to get ready for the European Q School. And sure enough he got through.
You caught slack for skipping the Australian Open in 2007 for a pal’s wedding and again in 2008 when you hurt your knee but said you’d have played if it were a U.S. Open. Are Aussie fans unrealistic about how much their players should play at home?
Maybe yes, but it’s a fair expectation. They wait all year for guys to come home for only three events. They want to see us play. Sometimes your comments are taken out of context. When I made that U.S. Open comment, [I was thinking] about my recovery time for the next tournament, but that’s not how it was received. We want to play some events, but we’re not going to be able to play them all. We need an offseason, and I think as years go by that becomes more and more clear. We need a longer offseason. There’s almost too much golf — we need to take some time and take a proper break. I think it would be good for the game, too.
Does it bum you out that you don’t get to play in the Ryder Cup?
It’s pretty intense for us to play the Presidents Cup. It might not be the same hoopla as a Ryder Cup, but I feel like I’m representing Australia, and it’s head-to-head competition. You get pretty pumped up for it. [The 2003 Presidents Cup in] South Africa was an incredible experience because it felt like we had the home advantage. When I look back on it, I matured so much as a player. I don’t think I would have won the  Players if I didn’t have that big-game experience behind me.
What’s it like to see younger players like Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas and Rory McIlroy proclaimed ‘the next big thing,’ just like you were?
It’s really interesting. They’re all guys I still consider in my age bracket, other than Rory, who’s just 19. Rory is such an exciting prospect. I’m excited to watch him play the next few years. I hope he has all the right people around him to give him some guidance, but also he needs to go with his instinct.
Is it tough to be so young and have all those expectations heaped on you?
Yes, because the way he’s playing he’s going to have so much expectation put on him. But he needs to be treated fairly as well. Unfortunately at times people get compared to Tiger. I don’t like comparing anyone to Tiger because it’s not a realistic expectation. Although I’d love Rory to prove me wrong, because he’s bloody good.
You were once dubbed the next Tiger. Did that have a negative effect on your game?
No. I found out quickly that I wasn’t going to win like Tiger does. He’s phenomenal.
What’s your relationship like with Tiger?
It’s good. We’re friendly, but not close friends. He’s another competitor and he’s a private guy. He doesn’t spend much time at the course or in the locker room. He comes here and does his job and gets out of here. That’s something I admire and would like to follow his example in.
You told Golf Magazine in 2007 that you’d be worried if you hadn’t won a major by age 35. You’re 29 now. Does that still sound right?
My goal is not to win X by X. But believe me, my time now is as good as it’s ever been. So, yeah, if I can’t crack this in another seven years I’m going to be a frustrated 35-year-old [laughs].
Your foundation supports underprivileged kids in Australia. What motivated you to start it?
It was an eye-opener when I started to play the PGA Tour to see the level of the charity work and the effect we have on the communities we play in. For whatever reason I never really saw that in Australia. I saw a lot of ads on television for kids in Africa but never anything in Australia. I thought it wouldn’t be that much of an effort to raise some money and help some people who really need it.
What will you do after your Tour career? You don’t seem like a Champions Tour kind of guy.
I don’t really think about it. I think I’ve got a lot of years left in me. I will say that I’m not a Champions Tour guy. I can’t see that happening. Hopefully by that time the foundation could take up a lot of my time, and that’s something I’d be inspired to spend more time with back in Australia. I think it’s probably pretty hard to walk away from the game completely. I think a really good goal in this game would be to someday get that letter from Augusta National that says: “You’re too damn old to play in the Masters anymore.”