2006: Adam Scott - Into the light

Some cupboards were bare, early and fairly late. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the bright lights on the American golf marquee, didn’t show up, leaving a controversial void at the Tour Championship. Then Adam Scott showed up Sunday with a three-stroke lead but with an empty trophy case for 2006, facing a frustrating omission on his seasonal record.

Scott arrived at East Lake the final day knowing he had finished second three times and third three times on the PGA Tour this year, knowing he hadn’t won in more than two years. Motivation comes in different packages. Having not closed was his.

“It was annoying,” he said.

No more. Eighteen holes later, Scott took another step up the high end of golf’s ladder, toward those two major-winning AWOLs. Already fourth in the world at 26, Scott shot 66 and came away with his fourth Tour title, another layer of confidence and validation.

Emptiness was filled.

“It really does make a big difference,” the Australian said of winning. “I feel all the hard work has actually paid off and I haven’t come up short. I was pretty determined to finish it off and didn’t want to throw away this opportunity as well as some others I had done earlier this year.”

Thanks in part to an eagle set up by a thin, rolling screamer at 15 Saturday, Scott started the final round up by three. Then he birdied five of the first 13, the last on a holed 28-foot bunker shot, for a five-shot edge en route to winning by three over Jim Furyk and four over Joe Durant.

Afterward, chasers admired.

“He has all the tools to be No. 1 in the world,” Durant said.

“He’s got a good swing, strikes it well, has some power and has a good short game,” Furyk said. “He’s very mature for a 26-year-old.”

One of golf’s longest drivers, Scott won because of an all-around game that seems to be steadily improving. He showed advancement this year by playing better in the majors, where in the past he admitted to playing defensively and psyching himself out. At East Lake he finished in the top 10 in several key categories, including tied for fourth in driving accuracy, rare for a power player. Also, he tied for first in putts per round and was sixth in greens in regulation and driving distance. He was one of two players who didn’t three-putt all week.

What’s more, he might have led the field in non-thought. He gave more proof of the value of the uncluttered mind.

“I certainly don’t think about things too much out there,” Scott said. “I don’t give myself the time to do that. I just hit the shot that I see, and most of the time it’s a pretty aggressive shot.”

Scott took statistical inventory of his game after the four majors and learned that he makes as many birdies as others but hadn’t won because of too many bogeys. So he focused on ways to fix that.

“I want to get in position to win more frequently,” Scott said. “Hopefully this is a start.”

Durant, meanwhile, hopes his torrid run of late isn’t finished now that the season has ended. Durant earned $2.016 million in his last five starts, all top-10 finishes, not including a $500,000 bonus for winning the schedule’s Fall Finish. He finished 13th on the money list after being 98th entering the Southern Farm Bureau Classic

the last week of September. He lost

a playoff there, then tied for sixth at Greensboro, won the Funai Classic

at Disney, tied for fourth at Tampa and placed third at the Tour Championship. He has shot par or better in 19 of his last 20 rounds.

“It came out of the blue,” said Durant, who in spring changed instructors from his man of 13 years, Ron Gring, to Brian Mogg.

Durant, 42, whose three previous Tour victories came from 1998 to 2001, credits his surge to improved putting in the range of 4 to 10 feet, a one-time nemesis.

“It just takes so much pressure off the rest of your game,” said Durant, long considered one of golf’s best ball-strikers, as evidenced again by his driving accuracy title this year. “You don’t feel you’ve got to hit it at every stick. And if you miss a green, you feel like you can chip it within that range and make a bunch of them.”

Durant credits the advance to switching back

to the open-stance style he used in high school and college. He says he sees the line better that way. “I’m right-eye dominant, and when I try

to be perfectly square with my right eye I virtually had no idea where I was trying to

putt the ball.”

Furyk, meanwhile, edged Scott for the Vardon Trophy for best adjusted scoring average, 68.86 to 68.95. Woods led at 68.11 but did not play

the minimum 60 Tour rounds required. Furyk shot par or better in 33 of his last 36 rounds dating to early July.

“I’m wondering if anyone is going to put an asterisk on it (because of Woods),” Furyk said. “But it’s a nice honor. It’s icing on the cake for a good year and consistent year. I’ve got a good spot for (the trophy). It’ll look nice.”

The Tour Championship figures to look nicer next year. For starters, Woods and Phil Mickelson, barring the unthinkable, will elect to play, unlike this year when America’s top two stars were conspicuous by their absence. And it will climax the new FedEx Cup Series that ends the shorter main season in mid-September.

“There’ll be a lot more excitement,” Furyk said. “We’re not going to hear the Tuesday-Wednesday who’s not here. There’ll be a bigger buzz. There has to be because the points end here and everybody will make a big deal about the $10 million (for the FedEx winner). It’ll be a bigger bang.”

Perhaps only Adam Scott might dissent. He liked the noise he made.

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