FALCONER: Can Scott sense the end?
More than four years on from his historic triumph at Augusta National, it sounds like the label of being a one-time major champion is wearing thin on Adam Scott.
Shortly after signing for a disappointing 74 in the final round of the Memorial Tournament a week ago, Scott let fly at the USGA when he suggested it should aim for “a challenge and interesting” US Open this week in Wisconsin, “not just playing brutal”.
According to the World Number 12, the USGA has “really dropped the ball with where the game is at, over the last 20 years especially”.
The 13-time PGA Tour winner is one of the few players on the circuit with the courage and status to articulate what most are thinking and after the controversial nature of the last two US Opens, Scott’s stance was hardly unfounded.
Chambers Bay in 2015 was an experiment worth pursuing but the condition of the greens left a large portion of the field fuming, while last year’s trip to arguably the world’s toughest course in Oakmont was made palatable to the players by torrential rain early in the tournament.
It’s unlikely the debate sparked by Scott about an over- or under-par winning total has had any impact on the USGA’s setup of Erin Hills. If Scott’s ball-striking is anywhere near his best and he can avoid disaster on the greens, the density of the fescue shouldn’t worry him.
But his comments to the media on Tuesday ahead of the tournament suggest the 36-year-old is feeling a sense of urgency to add to his green jacket while he’s still in his prime.
“I’m getting those feelings a little bit like I had leading into the Masters in ’13 where I’m getting on a mission to win a second one,” Scott told reporters.
“I don’t know how long my time playing at this level will be. The years just slip by and so do majors and I don’t want to let them all slip by.
“So I’m pretty motivated to capitalize on some of those close calls over the last few years.”
Scott finished in the top 10 in six of the nine majors between the 2013 and 2015 Open Championships, but despite consciously setting himself for the year’s four biggest events, the Australian has struggled to produce his best golf when needed.
The Queenslander’s T9 at this year’s Masters is his only top 10 result from the last six majors, but Scott is confident a tweak to his schedule has him primed to make a tilt at the US Open trophy this week.
“I like what I’m doing, it’s just been a little while since I’ve really been in contention, in the hunt in a major,” said Scott.
“I’m excited to get myself back in that position. That’s my challenge for the first three rounds this week. And then you’ve just got to have such a great day on a Sunday, anything can happen if you’re in that position.
“I feel I’m not going to kid myself that my game is there when it’s not. It is right there.”
Scott has made 10 cuts from 11 starts on the PGA Tour this season, recently racking up top 10s at The Masters, The Players Championship and last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
A pair of 1-over 71s ultimately left Scott too far back heading into the final round in Memphis, a recurring theme over the last 18 months for Scott at major championships.
It’s hard to argue that the competition the Australian faces now, as he edges closer to his 40thbirthday, is deeper than ever before.
The last six majors have been claimed by first-time winners, likely an indicator that there are more players on Tour nowadays capable of winning each week and fewer making up the numbers.
“It might be trying to get the second one as I sit here right now,” said Scott.
“It was only in 2011 that I really started performing well in majors and I actually had a real belief inside me that I would do it. So it was only a couple of years, and it’s been longer than a couple of years since I won the Masters.
“Just like the first one, the second one doesn’t come easy either.”
Sixteen top 10s in majors for just one triumph could leave any athlete discouraged, but Scott is far from finished at the highest level.
He sits 10th on the PGA Tour this season with a scoring average of 69.9, but continues to come unstuck with the flatstick, ranking 110th for overall putting average.
Scott’s sustained greatness over a long period can’t be questioned, but the Australian knows the clock is ticking.
“I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated,” said Scott, “but if we’re having this conversation in another year, maybe.”