You would have to have been a committed golf fan to know who Adam Scott was in late 2003.

Heck, Phil Mickelson hadn’t even won a Major yet.

Sure, Scott was a former amateur star whose early pro career included four European Tour titles and the US PGA Tour’s inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship. But the Adelaide-born Queenslander certainly wasn’t the international sports star he’d become.

Yet there he was on the Western Cape of South Africa in November 2003, playing alongside his golf idol Ernie Els in a dream Presidents Cup debut.

A 23-year-old Scott partnered South African icon Ernie Els in his homeland 14 years ago.
A 23-year-old Scott partnered South African icon Ernie Els in his homeland 14 years ago.

Paired with (then) three-time Major winner Els, Scott opened his first match in style with a 1-up victory over American stars Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard in the Thursday foursomes, before the duo downed Mickelson and Chris DiMarco for a crucial point on Friday.

Scott then combined with Korean stalwart K.J. Choi to thrash Kenny Perry and Jerry Kelly 5&4 in the fourballs.

“It was a huge moment for me,” Scott tells Australian Golf Digest. “Playing with Ernie in South Africa in an intense situation and just being thrust on the big stage when I hadn’t really contended in a Major at that point.

“I’d won on the US PGA Tour and in Europe, but not on a big stage and, to me, that was the big stage.”

Being a part of the Internationals’ 17-all tie kick-started 23-year-old Scott’s career. Four months later, he’d announce himself to the sporting world as the (then) youngest winner of the Players Championship in March 2004.

“There’s no doubt the experience I gained in South Africa helped me win a few months later at Sawgrass,” Scott recalls.

Under the captaincy of nine-time Major winner Gary Player, the Internationals had stood up to the American juggernaut. After a nine-point drubbing of Team USA at Royal Melbourne in 1998, the Internationals were breathing life into a teams competition struggling for limelight in the shadow of the Ryder Cup.

“But then we got thumped for the next five Cups,” Scott says.

Liberty National held US PGA Tour events in 2009 and 2013.
Liberty National held US PGA Tour events in 2009 and 2013.

Rescued By A Shark

Readying himself for an eighth Internationals team appearance this month – the equal-most alongside 2017 assistant captain Els and three-time Major winner Vijay Singh – 37-year-old Scott recalls another, perhaps more significant, occasion the biennial event has turned guardian angel for him: his 2009 slump.

Scott’s worst stretch as a professional saw him plummet from world No.3 in 2008 to No.65 in October 2009 on the back of 10 missed cuts from 14 events.

“I just had to aim straight and hope it was not too far either way,” Scott said in 2009. “I felt like I just don’t want to be out here playing shocking, grinding golf. It’s not what I’m used to.”

Uncharacteristic of the usually private Scott was the fact he was also popping up in the ‘Confidential’ pages of tabloids, courtesy of his then relationship with Serbian tennis glamour Ana Ivanovic.

Scott was thrown a Presidents Cup lifeline by captain Greg Norman in 2009.
Scott was thrown a Presidents Cup lifeline by captain Greg Norman in 2009.

But another idol, Greg Norman, threw Scott a lifeline – a captain’s pick in the Sharks’ 2009 Internationals side.

“It was big of Greg to pick me. He really stuck his neck on the line for me in ’09. Although I didn’t play my greatest golf, I did win a point somewhere in there for him,” laughs Scott, whose only contribution to the tally came in a Thursday foursomes victory.

“It thrust me on to a stage where I couldn’t hide and where my game was exposed. It gave me a clear indication of what I needed to work on to turn it all around.”

And some Shark wisdom seemed to be the tonic Scott needed to reignite his career. Seven weeks later, Scott would blitz the field for a five-shot Australian Open victory over Stuart Appleby at New South Wales Golf Club where the Shark presented the trophy.

“It’s funny how things work out … that was on the back end of my worst year as a pro. So to break through and win my national open at a great track like NSW meant a lot. It was a real big turning point in my career.”

Adds Scott’s father, Phil: “It was Greg saying, ‘I still believe you can play.’ I think that got Adam (to remember) that you lose your form, not your ability.”

Within a year, Scott added victories at the Valero Texas and Singapore Opens. He’d also break back into the world’s top-20.

An Axe To Grind

With $A60 million in prizemoney on the US PGA Tour alone, Scott is not a person you’d consider in debt.

Not financially, anyway.

But it’s easy to see why Scott feels he owes the Presidents Cup, and why he’s determined to help provide the Internationals a much-needed second victory in the event’s 23-year history.

Scott is equal-third on the Internationals’ all-time list of points scorers (15.5), but his 13–17–5 record in matches means little with a ‘0’ in the Cup wins column.

Helping Scott’s quest is the second go at a revitalised points system – introduced at the 2015 Cup in South Korea – where the total of matches was reduced from 34 to 30 and singles matches all square after 18 holes were awarded a half point to each competitor instead of going to extra play.

It saw the Internationals come within a flubbed Sang Moon Bae chip of forcing a tie and preventing the Americans from winning a sixth straight Cup.

Despite the one-point loss in 2015, Scott says the Cup was reborn.

“The vibe at the last Presidents Cup was fantastic. It needed it, because the odds were so stacked against our team and the old, crusty guys like me were tired of parading around for four days getting thumped,” says a brutally honest Scott, referring to the fact the five previous Cups were lost by three or more points.

“(The US PGA Tour) realised this won’t be a cyclical thing and it took 10 years to realise these miraculous players from emerging markets around the world haven’t shown up in the droves they thought … we’ve been far outnumbered by a US team playing for so many points.

“I’m glad they changed the points; it’s brought a new life into the Cup. The young guys are really hyped about it now because the older guys who haven’t won one are.”

Adam Scott
DID YOU KNOW? Adam Scott is no stranger to Liberty National Golf Club, having won the 2013 Barclays event with a four-round total of 11-under. The Aussie finished one shot ahead of a start-studded group that included Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

Come Together, Right Now

Despite owning Australia’s first Masters triumph at Augusta National, two World Golf Championship titles among 12 US PGA Tour wins and a World Cup of Golf teams win with Jason Day (2013), Scott still has a hole in his resume he desperately wants to fill – a Presidents Cup victory. The drawn effort on debut in 2003 is the closest Scott has come to getting the monkey off his back.

To be fair, the only members of the extended 2017 Internationals team who’ve tasted victory are captain Nick Price and assistant Els (1998). It’s why Scott has taken the role of team motivator – the one to fire up the squad. He attempted to bring the Internationals together at Royal Melbourne in 2011, but his 2015 efforts were much more … Australian.

The Internationals’ closing party is the one thing they have over the Americans – the soiree gathering a reputation as one of golf’s best shindigs. But Scott realised the bonds forged on Sunday night after the event would be more useful before the tournament.

“I felt strongly that it was important we have a fun evening when we get there on Monday,” he says. “We had to make it fun and make people want to stay. Let’s have some speeches, get a comedian, get a magician if you have to. Do whatever it takes to get everyone jacked up about the week ahead as a unit.

“We may not have quite locked the doors, but the entire extended unit certainly bonded that night and it was a great way to start the week.”

Two-time Internationals captain Norman agrees, but believes an element of pride needs to be restored to the team.

“It’s trying to get everybody to play under one flag, of course,” says Norman, when asked what was the key to victory for the Internationals. “But sooner or later you’re going to be embarrassed about having your ass handed to you. You would think they would come together individually to make a team. Once they do that, I think they’ll have a really good chance of it.”

On September 28, the 12 members of the 2017 International side will descend on New Jersey’s Liberty National Golf Club – a course boasting unrivalled views of the New York City skyline and the iconic Statue of Liberty.

What better setting for Adam Scott to be king of the hill, top of the heap?

Who? Where?

For the Presidents Cup, the 6,723-metre Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey will alter its routing to take advantage of the jaw-dropping views of the State of Liberty and Manhattan skyline earlier in the round.

What is normally the par-4 fifth hole will now be the first, and holes will be played in order from then on to finish – for matches lasting that long – on the par-3 fourth. The layout of the ultra-exclusive club is a blend of different styles of course and isnt likely to suit any particular style of player.

As for the teams, both will be named on September 4 before captains picks are announced on September 6.

The International team is first filled with the top-10 players on the Official World Golf Rankings excluding those eligible for the Ryder Cup, while the American team is awarded based on two years of FedEx Cup standings. One FedEx Cup point for the 2015/16 season equals one Presidents Cup point, but two are given for every FedEx point earned in 2017.