A rested, prepared Scott shoots 68 at Players
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It was a summerlike twilight that brought the first round of The Players Championship to an end, pulsating warmth and gentle conditions offering a perfect backdrop to what appeared to be a casual stroll along the closing holes for Adam Scott.
If he didn’t appear to break a sweat in shooting 4-under 68 to get into a share of sixth, three off the lead, looks are deceiving, because the Aussie assured the assembled media that he was on his toes from start to finish. “Quickest greens we’ve seen this year,” he said.
OK, they may have been a foot quicker at the Quail Hollow Club last week, but Scott was not in attendance at the Wells Fargo Championship, so he couldn’t offer a comparison. Now the wiseguys might suggest Scott hasn’t been in attendance a lot this year, but therein sits the secret to what he considers to be a nice stretch of golf for him (T-13 at Doral, T-8 at the Masters, T-12 in Korea).
He’s rested. He’s prepared. And most of all, he’s committed to it. “I think the schedule’s good. I think it works for me,” he said.
But it’s been the source of some criticism sent his way? Scott shrugged, knowing that it’s the world we live in. Perspective, it seems, has no consistency. Had he not gotten ill at the start of the year, Scott would have played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open, “and the number would look a lot different,” meaning he’d be playing in his seventh PGA Tour tournament this week, not his fifth.
“Then I see Rory (McIlroy) getting praise for his limited schedule,” Scott said, with a laugh, “and I get a finger pointed at me that I don’t play enough. Look, I feel for myself, I’ve got to get myself ready.”
For the record, McIlroy this week is teeing it up in his sixth PGA Tour tournament, Scott in his fifth. Each has gone overseas, McIlroy twice to the Middle East, Scott two weeks ago to the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea. (That trip, said Scott, is easily explained. Titleist last year was purchased by a South Korean consortium, and Scott agreed to go to beef up the Titleist staff presence there. “Titleist has been so loyal to me in my career,” Scott said.)
When talk centers around his schedule thus far in 2012, Scott thinks people are overlooking the reality of the landscape. “We play so much the next 20 weeks, there’s a lot to gain. I’d rather be fresh for all this,” he said. In fact, Scott is teeing it up four times in six weeks: here, next week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, week off, then the Memorial, week off, and the U.S. Open.
No, it’s not vintage Dana Quigley Ironman stuff, but Scott isn’t quite sure people have this schedule storyline correct. He suggests when the year shakes out, when the majors are done and so, too, the FedEx Cup playoffs, then the October-November tournaments in Asia and his native Australia, his schedule and his performances then should be assessed.
But until then, Scott will continue to build on his performances, none of which has produced a victory, though he truly feels he is, as they say, “trending.”
“Overall, I’m seeing a lot of great stuff,” Scott said after a day in which he hit 11 fairways and 14 greens. Certainly, the highlight was his 4-iron from 220 yards that set up a 35-foot eagle at the par 5 11th, one of two made there. “A bonus, for sure,” Scott said, and when he birdied the short, par-4 12th, he was 6 under and one off the lead.
A sloppy three-putt bogey at the 13th slowed his momentum, a wild drive left led to another dropped shot, then he felt what could have been the key moment to his opening round – a 60-foot putt at the island-green 17th. “We were stalling there,” Scott confessed, talking of his decision to have him and caddie Steve Williams look at the putt for quite a while from both sides.
“It would have been a real shame to drop another shot,” he said.
Instead, Scott lagged beautifully, solidifying his two-putt par and a round of 68. He hasn’t had a better first-round score in this championship since 2004, when he started with 65 – the year when he went on to win this coveted title. While there have been rough trips in recent visits here, “overall, my memories of this place are fantastic.”
They’ve just never been created when he’s so rested and confident in his game.