Among those thoughts that usher us toward Augusta and the annual Masters is this one: Hopefully Adam Scott knows what he’s doing, because it sure is a tough one to figure out.
Scott, who played his best major championship in nearly winning last year’s Masters, will tee it up having played just eight rounds of competitive stroke-play golf in 2012.
That’s right, eight.
Curious, to say the least, because rarely is it at this time of year when Tiger Woods has played nearly twice as many stroke-play rounds as someone else, yet that’s the case right now. Woods has played 15 to Scott’s eight.
Very curious, because a year ago when he played brilliantly on the weekend and would have won the green jacket if not for Charl Schwartzel’s birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish, Scott made the Masters his sixth start of the season. This time around, the young Aussie will make the Masters just his fourth tournament and only his third stroke-play event. If you consider that he putted miserably and lost at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in less than four hours, it’s hard to see the Masters as anything but just his third tournament of the season.
(Now this is ignoring the Tavistock Cup, where Scott played two days for giggles, and we can only wonder how Arnold Palmer really feels about players blowing into his town for a money-grab, but not sticking around to play in his tournament.)
Augusta as one’s third start?
It seems to be contrary to what Scott said a few weeks ago at Doral during the WGC-Cadillac Championship: “At the moment, I’m fresh. I think I’m getting close to being really ready.”
Then he added: “It’s important I think when you’re playing a schedule like I’m playing, that you put yourself in the tournament and you get a taste of contention and you just see where your game’s really at, because that’s when you find out whether the practice you’re doing and everything is right, when you’re under pressure.”
Sound thinking, yet he fell out of contention with a third-round 74 that week and took a pass on the Transitions Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Shell Houston Open (where he won in 2007), so there’s been no way to get into contention to test the game.
Again, maybe Scott will achieve his stated goal, which is to be fresh for the majors and strong at the end of the season, but it’s right to question how sound a plan this is and whether he’ll be competitively sharp for the April 5 start amid the azaleas and magnolias. It’s an unprecedented approach in many respects, and when you look around and see that world-class players already have won in 2012 – No. 1 Luke Donald and No. 2 Rory McIlroy, and so, too, Nos. 5 (Steve Stricker), 6 (Woods), and 8 (Justin Rose) – while Lee Westwood (third), Martin Kaymer (fourth), Schwartzel (seventh) and Webb Simpson (ninth) have piled up the top 10s and been in contention, you are left wondering how Scott’s Augusta week will go.
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COME THE WEEKEND, IT’S A LITTLE MORE TILT THAN HE’D LIKE: Charlie Wi has made the cut in six stroke-play events, and there’s a disconcerting pattern developing. He’s 24 under on Thursday and Friday in those tournaments, but 14 over on the weekend.
Painfully, he followed a Sunday 78 at the Transitions Championship with a Sunday 78 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
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THE BIRDIE PART, HE HAD DOWN PAT; NOW, ABOUT THOSE BOGEYS: Sean O’Hair made 19 birdies at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which was one fewer than the winner, Tiger Woods. The only thing is, Woods finished at 13 under and won by five, while O’Hair was level par, tied for 29th.
Yeah, making 11 bogeys, two doubles, and one ugly quintuple sort of ruined O’Hair’s hard work. That and playing the par 5s in just 2 under, as opposed to Woods’ 12 under.
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MEASURING STICK: To caddie Jimmy Johnson, there is one statistic that constantly gets overlooked, but shouldn’t: average money per start.
Johnson believes it’s a true indicator of a player’s consistent effectiveness. When you stop and explore the numbers, it’s hard to argue with the veteran. Look no further than the man for whom Johnson carries, Steve Stricker, to appreciate real quality.
Stricker has averaged $361,750 in four starts this season, and that’s bettered by only Rory McIlroy ($797,333 average in three starts). Tiger Woods ($355,800) is third and Luke Donald ($327,479) is fourth. No surprise by Stricker’s numbers, given that he ranked fourth in this category last year ($210,146), and third in each of the previous two years ($220,538 in 2010, $287,847 in 2009).
But before you look at McIlroy’s number through three events and marvel at it, consider that Woods – as he has with many statistical categories – has established majestic levels that defy belief. In 2009, he averaged $618,127 per his 17 starts; the year before, it was a whopping $962,500 for each of his six tournaments.
Entering the 2012 season, even with massive falloffs in production for 2010-11, Woods had averaged $364,682 for his 260 pro starts on the PGA Tour.
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BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND . . . That would be the Father-Son Challenge, which annually had a waiting list to get in. To be sponsored by PNC Bank, the tournament is for major winners and their sons and was a huge attraction with players for 14 years until it ended in 2008.
The return of the tournament coincides beautifully with the resurgence of Woods, who probably could tee it up with Charlie, 3, and be the favorite.