Adam Scott knows he hasn’t performed well in the majors. Good thing he still has plenty of time.
Scott turned pro in 2000, at the height of Tigermania, and like every young star since, he has had to try to live up to the unrealistic expectations of challenging Woods’s reign.
But considering he just turned 30, Scott’s not in a bad spot. He’s won at least one tournament every year since 2001, including a victory earlier this year at the Texas Open. Scott also split from long-time coach Butch Harmon last year, and seems to have found his game again under the eye of his friend, and now brother-in-law, Brad Malone.
Scott closed out the PGA Tour season with top 10s at the Bridgestone, Barclays and Deutsche Bank. Scott, back home in Australia and gearing up for next week’s PGA Tour-sanctioned event in Malaysia, spoke with Golf.com about his new instructor, what he learned from Butch and the major he wants more than any other.
You’re working with Brad Malone, who’s now your brother-in-law after recently marrying your sister. What’s that been like?
It’s been great because we’ve been friends for quite a while now, and he’s a very knowledgeable golf coach. I think he’s put a lot into it, he’s done a lot of training in England. He’s known my game for a long time. When Butch and I decided to take a break, obviously when I came home he was here and needed someone to have a look at my swing and give me some direction to work towards. So it’s been really good. I think my stats on Tour this year have proven that he’s done a good job.
What are you guys working on right now?
Not much. Just trying to make sure everything stays really nice and square the way we like to see it. My swing is in a good place. We’re working harder on my short game. That’s really up to practice for me.
Are you still working with Dave Stockton and his son on your putting?
No, I’m not. I stopped working with them in the middle of the year. I had a few lessons and obviously got a lot of good things out of it, but it’s not something I am pursuing at the moment. But they were great and very helpful, and I took a lot out of it. I’m working on some of that stuff in my putting still, and then concentrating on some other things as well.
You’ve been on Tour for quite a while now. Do you feel like you have a good knowledge of your swing, especially after working with someone like Butch Harmon?
Absolutely. I learned so much from Butch. When I started working with Butch, I had just turned 19, and I really didn’t know much about the golf swing from a technical side of things. Certainly Butch taught me pretty much everything to know about what to see from the ball flight because that tells you everything and how to go about it from there. What better person to teach you and ground you with information than Butch Harmon? He’s been around the game of golf for 50 years, and around the best players for 50 years.
Why did you stop working with him, and is there a chance you’ll work together again?
I think we kind of needed a break. We were struggling at the time. I was obviously not playing well, and it was a good time for a break. It’s not easy traveling in and out of Vegas all the time for me when I wasn’t living there. So to get to see Butch a lot was getting quite tough as well. His travel schedule is less and less. He’s getting older and my schedule is not always suited to that. But certainly we are great mates, and I would always take any advice from Butch. We keep in touch all the time. He knows what I am doing with my golf swing. It’s just better that I can see Brad a little more often and he can keep a check on me.
Last year you went into a bit of a slump, but then you won in Australia shortly after you were picked for the Presidents Cup by Greg Norman. How much did that captain’s selection help turn your game around?
I think Greg picking me certainly helped my psyche. It put me back on the big stage really quick. Playing the Presidents Cup is like playing the last round of a tournament — you’re in contention every time you tee it up. So for five rounds I had that big-stage feeling, which obviously I hadn’t had in a while since I’d been playing poorly. So it certainly helped my psyche and made me feel like a top player again.
But really, the help from Brad on my golf swing is what turned it all around. He got me back on track. He got me hitting it straight again. That direction was what I needed, and that really turned it around. My ball striking has been really good ever since.
Were you surprised how quickly people wrote you off?
I don’t know. I try not to pay too much attention to it all. But I guess so. Everyone’s got a short memory. It’s interesting … it was the first time I’d played poorly for any stretch of time. I can’t imagine there’s one player who has a 20- or 25-year career that doesn’t have a few months of bad golf. It happens to everyone. But that’s the way it is now. The level of all the guys is so high and it needs to be maintained in order to demand the interest out of people. The bar has been raised, and it keeps getting raised every year.
You just turned 30. You’ve won all over the world. You’ve won a Tour Championship and a Players Championship. You’ve got to feel pretty good heading into your 30s.
I feel really good. My game is in a much more comfortable place now than it was about 12 months ago. I’ve had 10 years at playing at the top level, and I’ve got a lot of experience. I’ve won some big tournaments. But now I think it’s time, with the direction my game is heading and that experience, I certainly feel like I can put myself in position to win all the big stuff. It’s just a matter of working hard and doing it. I think the competition is getting tougher as well. I think there are more guys capable of that and certainly there are a lot of guys who are hungry. I’ve got to keep my head down and working hard, but I really feel I’m in a great position having just turned 30.
What major sets up best for you?
I really feel comfortable at all of them. My heart wants to win the Masters. I’d love to be the first Australian to win the Masters. But I’ve always dreamt of winning the Open championship since I was a kid. I’ve had some results at both. I really would love to put myself in position at the Masters. I think that sets up best for me. I just have to putt a little better. It’s just one area — 4-10 feet is the range I need to improve.
Do you treat the majors like any other tournament?
Well, I try, but it’s hard to. Obviously you’re wanting to peak for it, and I think the last few years I’ve been treating it as any other tournament and I haven’t gotten my best out of it. I certainly would like to try to somehow figure out how to peak for it. This year I hit the ball better, but I really haven’t played my best golf ballstriking-wise at majors either, and that’s kind of disappointing. This year was much better. I struck the ball very nicely at majors. On and off throughout the year I had my moments where I struggled with my putting and it wasn’t great at really any of them to be honest. It was a bit of hard work.
The European Tour recently increased its minimum requirement for membership to 13 events. You still plan on being a member of both Tours?
I think I’m going to find it hard to fulfill both Tours next year. I’ve been playing the bare minimum for the last few years. I think we’re going to see players start to choose between the two. I’m probably going to find myself in that position also.
So you’re probably going to choose the PGA Tour?
I probably will, yeah.
You think the days of playing a ‘world’ schedule are numbered?
I guess it all depends on the economic times around the world. I’m not so sure. Now it seems like people are traveling less. Certainly the dollars in America are huge. The dollars around the world are not as big. Appearances fees aren’t as big as they were a few years ago, which everyone traveled for. That’s why they went to play overseas — they got guaranteed a big appearance fee. We’ll have to see in the future. The uncertainty of the economic state around the world is interesting. We’ll see how it pans out.
How’s your health? You had quite a few injuries last year.
Yeah I was on a bad run there for a while. I’m in great shape at the moment. I’ve been spending the last two weeks down here physical training with my trainer — having a little training camp. I’m working myself into shape a bit before I go play again.
You’ve also got a lot of new things going on with your foundation. What’s this big event you have planned?
It’s our first big gala event for the foundation, which has been going for five years already. We’ve raised a pretty significant amount, but hopefully this is going to move us up another level and get it a little more recognition and raise a little bit more money.
Why did you choose autism research as one of the beneficiaries?
So far the foundation has been very broad in its direction. We’ve just focused it on youth and we’ve been involved in a lot of different projects in providing opportunities for disadvantaged youths. I felt like it was time to narrow it down a little bit and focus on one [issue] so we have a great story to tell all the time. Really through friends of mine who’ve dealt with autism is what pulled me to that. I felt this was an opportunity to take the foundation outside my area and really reach out to people.
You also have a contest through your Web site where people can play a round of golf with you in Australia?
Yeah, they get to play in the pro-am at the Australian PGA with me in December, and I’ll give them a golf lesson. On the back end of that they get a great holiday in Queensland and get to go up to the Barrier Reef and pretty much have a ball. It’s a really great contest and the deadline to enter is October 31.
You see yourself being a teacher in the future?
No, I really don’t have the skills for teaching. Fortunately I can play and I don’t have to teach. I think it’s a real art. I’ll do my best for these people, but their hopes of improving from my lesson are not high. Maybe I’ll bring Brad along with me.