Scott learns to work harder after '04 Players win

Adam Scott won the 2004 Players Championship.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Ten years ago, Adam Scott walked off the 17th green at TPC Sawgrass with a two-shot lead at The Players. What does he best remember of that moment?

“The smell of beer,” he said, sounding a little bit like Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore rhapsodizing about napalm in “Apocalypse Now.”

Scott survived a shaky final hole to become at 23 the youngest Players champion. His idol growing up, Australian countryman Greg Norman, declared Scott was going to be the next superstar. Until Scott won the Masters in 2013, the questions of when he might fulfill his promise mounted.

“I was just a kid, and I didn’t know how hard the game was,” Scott said.

Inexperienced and admittedly a bit naïve, Scott said he took “the wrong things” out of winning that Players title. He said he didn’t become complacent, but victory may have come too easily.

“When things are going good, and you’re 23, it’s pretty easy to cruise along and you just expect to keep getting better,” he said. “I kept doing what I was doing and, yeah, I got better, but not that much better.”

Reflecting on the aftermath of his Players victory, Scott conceded, “I just didn’t have the best plan in place. I went through the motions and did all the practice, but maybe it wasn’t intense enough; there wasn’t a narrow enough focus on exactly what I had to do,” he said. “I just didn’t have a great understanding, I think, of what was required to be the best in your field at that point.”

Who better to learn from than some of the best in their sport? Scott studied the work ethic and intensity of tennis great Rafael Nadal and admired the dominance of Tiger Woods.

“Look at what Tiger did,” Scott said. “You don’t think he was sitting on the couch, do you? He was working harder than everybody else.”

Even though he fell short of winning the 2012 Masters and let the 2013 Open Championship slip from his grasp, Scott accepted his fate with equanimity. He remained convinced that he was doing the right things to become a champion. Scott said he has made sacrifices to reach new heights, noting he has increased his practice regime 10-fold in the past five, 10 years. “And when I get where I want to be, I push it harder,” he said.

Disappointed with his performance at this year’s Masters, particularly his long-range putting, Scott said he has spent the past several weeks in the Bahamas. He looks tanned and refreshed, but it’s not from sipping Bahama Mamas from a lounge chair.

“I’ve been digging holes,” he said. “I can practice all day (at Albany Golf Club) and walk 100 yards and be at the beach and lay there 30 minutes. It’s a nice balance.”

It’s that dedication to reaching the top that has Scott poised to unseat Woods as World No. 1. He has had chances to do so at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters, and come up short. In a strange twist of the numbers, Scott could have vaulted to No. 1 if he were to skip the Players, but he needs to finish T-16 or better if he plays. When told of this oddity, Scott said, “See you later, guys,” drawing laughter, before adding, “Look, I’m here to win golf tournaments. That’s been the goal, and from that you can get to No. 1 in the world if you win enough.”

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