Well-rested Scott tied for early lead at Doral
Friday, March 9, 2012
DORAL, Fla. – Adam Scott, part-time golfer, put a half-nelson hold on the first-round lead at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. At least we think that was Scott. Can’t be sure because we haven’t seen him in months, which in golf means ages.
Remarkably, Scott came to Doral Golf Resort & Spa having played only five competitive rounds since November. Five rounds. That’s a slow three days for Dana Quigley.
“I’m fresh,” he understated.
If he were any fresher, he’d be in the produce section at Publix.
If he were any more rested, he’d be asleep.
And yet, proving that playing golf can be as simple as riding a bicycle if you’ve had enough practice, he shot a 6-under-par 66 on a blustery day at Doral’s Blue Monster. That was good enough for a share of first place with Jason Dufner.
“If you starve a guy of playing a little bit, he’ll be desperate to compete,” Scott said, smiling. “Just starve me a little bit and I’ll find my way into contention.”
Stay away from the competitive game for about three months and apparently you get hungry. Scott played that way Thursday, when he made an eagle and five birdies and took only 24 putts.
Not all of his time gone was a vacation. Tired of recurring tonsillitis the past couple of years, he had his tonsils taken out in December. The tonsillectomy sent him to the couch for about a month.
Then he watched tennis for another month back home in Australia. Read: Female tennis. His girlfriend is Ana Ivanovic, who happened to be named the best-looking tennis player of all-time by The Age newspaper.
“I just really enjoyed being home for three months,” Scott said. “It’s the first time in my career I’ve been home that long. ... I think it was really good for me.”
A man must know his limitations, or at least what works for him. Scott, 31, thinks he has found a formula that gives him a chance to perform his best in big tournaments.
Burnout is not an option. Or a possibility.
“I played a lot of tournaments all around the world for, like, 10 years,” he said. “I mean, that takes its toll. It catches up with you a little bit. So I just do what feels best for me now. I’m out here with the goal to be the best player I can be and get the most out of my game.”
Scott might play the Transitions Championship next week near Tampa. If he doesn’t, he’d have another three consecutive weeks off before the Masters, other than the two-day, made-for-television Tavistock Cup.
“It’s big golf again,” he said. “This is the time you want to knuckle down, get focused and get involved.”
He changed things up and had a similar plan last year, and it worked much better than usual in the elite tournaments. He was runner-up at the Masters and seventh in the PGA Championship, marking the second time he had two top 10s in majors in one season. And he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, one of his seven top 10s in 18 starts.
In the process, Scott became something of a range rat. Remarkably, he said he enjoyed practicing as much he did any result last year.
In his only other competition this year, he tied for 17th at the Northern Trust Open and lost in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Then he headed to San Diego for a week of practice with his coach and brother-in-law, Brad Malone.
“I’m getting close to being really ready,” Scott said.
Good range sessions buoyed his confidence. Finding freedom in his swing was the key. So he came here not worried about being rusty.
“Freed up just means that the ball gets in the way of the club,” he said. “You are just not forcing anything down at impact. The body and clubhead are releasing ... and it just feels very free and natural through the ball.”
Scott’s schedule, of course, is not for everybody. By contrast, Spencer Levin just played eight consecutive weeks, from the Sony Open through the Honda Classic.
Believe it or not, Scott knows the feeling. When he first turned pro, he played 14 consecutive weeks while getting sponsor exemptions in the United States and Europe.
“When you’re 19 years old, that’s a piece of cake,” he said. “And you’re loving it. You’ve just turned pro and you can’t believe you’re playing in a professional tournament and you’re going to get paid for playing well.”
Now he doesn’t much go 14 straight days. So he doesn’t even want to imagine 14 weeks.
“That would be a bit of a grind,” he said, smiling. “I don’t think I’d come out very good at the other end.”