There was a time when Adam Scott was consistently viewed as one of the favourites at all four of golf’s Major championships. The numbers do not lie. Between 2011 and 2015, the Queenslander totted up as many as 11 top-10 finishes in the game’s four most important events, a run that famously included victory at the 2013 Masters and, less gloriously, his four-bogey finish that handed the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham to Ernie Els.
So Scott has been there and done most things when it comes to Grand Slam golf. As well as the t-shirt, he has the green jacket. Just not the claret jug.
More recently, Scott’s record at the highest level has shown signs of life after a barren couple of years. Third in last year’s PGA at Bellerive – where, for most of the final day, he offered up the strongest challenge to the eventual winner, Brooks Koepka – he co-led this year’s Masters at the halfway point before falling away over the weekend to finish T-18. Whatever, especially on a sodden Bethpage Black course that will surely play into his long-game strengths, the now 38-year-old Scott is a legitimate contender once again.
“Winning a Major never comes easily,” says the 13-time US PGA Tour winner. “But after a couple of years when I just wasn’t playing well enough – that was really frustrating – I feel like I’ve got my game back to the level you need to be on to win. Plus, I have a lot of experience in Majors. I was right there a lot for a few years, even if I only managed to win one.
“I know how important it is to take chances when they come along. That’s the real challenge for me – not thinking too much and analysing if I’m in contention come Sunday. I just have to play, which is easy to say but not always easy to do in pressure situations.”
As for what is going to be the most important aspects of the game over the next four days, Scott has a slightly different take on just where the next holder of the Wanamaker Trophy will have to excel. While he acknowledges that hitting most of the fairways – and avoiding the wet, heavy rough – is an obvious prerequisite, pure length off the tee is not going to be his top priority.
“I like my chances when the most important shots are being played 150 to 220 yards from the greens,” he continues. “In saying that, my wedge game is very good statistically this year. So I like where everything is at. I just have to get out of my own way and play. My game is there.”
Also working in Scott’s favour is the fact that, by almost universal acknowledgment, Bethpage’s greens are relatively flat. Thus, the average putter’s ability to hole-out is likely to be that much closer to those for whom the making of putts comes more naturally.
“The greens are fairly simple,” Scott says. “When there is slope it is more because there is a tier in the green. So there are flat sections you have to find. So, while there isn’t that much to them, many of the greens do have a back-to-front pitch. I see a lot of that in this part of America. So you have to favour being below the hole. The rough is up and this is a Major, so you really don’t want to be over the back of too many greens.”
And a winning score? Right this minute, Scott would happily accept something in the region of 10-under par, a pretty significant number given three-under (in 2002) and four-under (in 2009) won the two US Opens here.
“I’m not sure the course will dry out enough to get too tricky,” he says. “Generally, though, the scoring on tour has been unbelievable this year. And this week, because it is soft, we will have more margin for error on even the longest shots into the greens. Even a pulled 3-iron isn’t going to run too far after landing. So many guys will be in ‘attack-mode’.”
And one of those, by the sight and sound of things, will be a rejuvenated Adam Scott.