Rude: Scott in recovery mode entering Firestone
AKRON, Ohio – People handle painful defeat differently. Punch a wall. Kick a door. Swear a streak. Cry a river. Curl in a corner. Drink in a dark room. Beat yourself up. Scream out a lung.
Adam Scott, a mild-mannered sort, chose none of that.
Instead he returned home to Switzerland, spent a few quiet days in the Alps, had his spirits boosted by a “ton of messages and emails” and went with his usual 48-hour recovery plan after a major championship:
Lie on a couch.
“I really just felt a bit shocked and almost a numb feeling about it,” Scott said Wednesday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, where he is defending champion. “I certainly didn’t beat myself up and have to curl up in a corner. . . . I’m certainly one who thinks you should get the anger out if it’s inside, but I just never had that.”
Shocked and numb.
He would use those words more than once when referring to his stunning collapse July 22 at the Open Championship. He blew a four-stroke lead when bogeying the final four holes and lost by one to beneficiary Ernie Els.
“That’s what the pressure of those situations can do,” Scott said.
He has not watched tape of that frightful finish. But he has replayed that in his mind several times, concluding the mess “happened so fast, even looking back on it.” Yet any sort of rumination apparently caused no loss of sleep or confidence.
“There wasn’t that much healing for me,” he said. “I mean, my game is in really great shape. I certainly analyzed the last few holes a little bit and took out of it what I wanted and then just thought about how great I played. I felt like it was my week, and I played like a champion, but I played four poor holes at the end. And you can’t win and do that.”
A few days after the Open at Royal Lytham, he and caddie Steve Williams kicked the tires on the topic. The intent was to look back and ahead simultaneously.
“We’re going to hopefully put ourselves in that position a lot more, and we’ll know how to handle each other that little bit better maybe,” Scott said. “He’ll understand me that little bit better because I’ve told him how I was feeling, and we’ll just get it done.”
One would think Scott, 32 and ranked sixth in the world, will put himself in contention again in majors. Yes, there are no guarantees in golf. But Scott is at a prime age and has improved his performance in the game’s top tournaments the last two years since changing his approach.
Lytham was his best showing yet. So he’s viewing that as a building block rather than a setback.
“The way I look at it, that was the proof that I’m good enough to win major championships,” Scott said. “Although I didn’t finish like a champion, I have in the past at other tournaments, so I know I’ve got that in me. It’s just putting the pieces together, and I think that might have been the last piece.”
The most important piece, though, would be breakthrough major success. That would involve closing. And closing isn’t what it once was. Tiger Woods used to put tournaments on lockdown when leading after 54 holes. This year, blown leads have become commonplace, even big ones, even late. Scott is merely the latest poster boy.
“It was just four holes that I’ll have to learn from and be tougher on myself next time I’m in that position,” Scott said.
That’s true to a point. Often in golf, when you plug one hole you spring a leak somewhere else. Next time the first 68 holes might be off.
For now, though, the focus is on the last four. Scott looks back and says the same thing he offered that Sunday night – that he felt comfortable. He admitted to making a couple of decisions too quickly. But he figures frayed nerves weren’t an issue, as they were down the stretch a few weeks earlier when he finished third at the AT&T National.
“(Then) the adrenaline was pumping and the hands felt like they were shaking and they were sweaty and all that kind of stuff that happens sometimes,” Scott said. “But not at Lytham. I felt completely in control and calm.”
That’s not to say he wouldn’t have minded a mulligan. Or two. Or three.
“Look, I mean, I could go over every shot and want to hit them all again,” Scott said, rattling off substandard approaches on Nos. 15-17 and a 3-wood tee shot into a bunker at 18. “You could pick them all again.”
Or you could pick up the pieces and construct. That’s the task he’s in the midst of attempting.