Adam Scott is the last guy who would ever ask for praise. He’s inordinately modest and soft-spoken, and probably feels self-conscious (maybe even a little guilty) about all the outsized gifts he’s been given, from his Hollywood looks to and Platonic swing to his innate likability.
But the 35-year-old, Adelaide-born Queenslander who resides in the Bahamas when he’s not playing golf in the US hasn’t been given enough credit for what he has accomplished in 2016, due in part to compatriot Jason Day’s stunning start to the year.
Such credit, of course, goes way beyond Scott winning two straight US PGA Tour events earlier this year. In the process, he has done something very rare. At an advanced stage of his career, in the midst of a long period of underperformance – last year was his first since 2000 in which he went winless worldwide – Scott has reversed a persistent and often debilitating tendency to melt in the cauldron of a tournament’s crucial moment.
Adam Scott 2.0 has arrived, and this upgraded version may have shrugged off that ‘choker’ tag for good.
Rediscovering The Magic
Scott’s failures usually came from the putter. But in big moments, he was prone to big misses with any club. It all pointed to an inner fragility that, for all his physical talent, seemed to put a ceiling on his capability. Although he had won 11 US PGA Tour events coming into this year, including the 2013 Masters, it was hard to project Scott winning much more. But he has and, in all likelihood, will continue to for the next decade. Why? It’s a question we put to some of Australia’s most talented tour professionals – guys who, for now at least, can only dream of being Adam Scott. Some of their responses were predictable. “Adam is by far the best driver of the ball – his length and accuracy is world class,” says 2012 Australian PGA champion Daniel Popovic. “He’s the best driver of the ball I have ever seen,” adds Web.com Tour mainstay Aron Price.
Others Were Brutally Honest.
“If I could have driven the ball like Adam Scott I’d have another 20 million in the bank,” says 2004 Michelin Championship winner Andre Stolz. But Scott has always been one of the world’s best drivers. The stats say that never swayed during his form slump. He ranked 15th it Total Driving on the US PGA Tour last year, while he’s actually dropped down to 36th so far in 2016. So what has Scott done to change his fortunes so dramatically?
“He proved at the Cadillac Championship that he is no slouch with the short putter, despite public perceptions,” says Popovic. That’s true. At the time of writing, Scott ranked eighth on tour in Putting Average.
“He’s also an under-rated chipper,” adds Price, who praised the short-game work Scott has clearly done with coach and brother-in-law Brad Malone which has him ranked No.1 on tour in Scrambling From The Fringe.
Yet Aussie tour journeyman Matthew Guyatt believes Scott’s biggest change has come away from the fairways. “What Adam has right now, that if you could bottle and sell would make you millions, is contentment, confidence and momentum,” says Guyatt. “No matter what your profession, if you have those three key ingredients you will kick some goals.”
Guyatt says it was no coincidence that from the moment Scott became a father in 2015 (wife Marie gave birth to their baby daughter, Bo Vera, in February) his golf temporarily suffered. “Being a dad myself, I know how that changes your life forever … for the better, of course,” he says. “I reckon Adam has taken the right amount of time to adapt to life as a dad on the road and I totally respect his devotion to his family; putting them ahead of his golf. It’s for that reason I think we are seeing some great form from Adam this year, not because of the short putter or his superior ballstriking. He has simply taken the time to adjust to being a dad and the lack of sleep and odd routines that come with it. Now that he has adjusted, I don’t expect him to slow down again until baby number two arrives.”
Developing The Grit-Factor
Some of Scott’s losses, because he is such a stylish player and shot-maker, and because he is such a decent person, have been among the most painful in recent history. His collapse on Sunday during the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham was epic, but it might not have matched the hurt from his inability to put away the 2013 Australian Open, where Scott’s ballstriking was Hoganesque. Still, Scott couldn’t get any of a number of short birdie putts to fall on the back nine, allowing Rory McIlroy to hang around until, on the 72nd hole, Scott over-clubbed from the middle of the fairway to make the most untimely of bogeys. Playing partner McIlroy stole a one-stroke victory (which the Northern Irishman later cited as a key to his transcendent 2014 season) with a crushing 20-foot birdie putt.
Exacerbating Scott’s pattern was the seeming crisis he faced with the ban on the anchored putting stroke. Although a decent putter early in his career, Scott subsequently suffered through several periods of futility on the greens, during which he essentially had little chance of winning. The broomstick putter he took to in 2011 seemed to save him, especially when he won The Masters with two great mid-length birdie putts at the very end. Yet it gradually became evident that Scott was really not much better on a week-to-week basis when anchoring.
On last year’s Florida swing, ostensibly in preparation for the coming anchoring ban, Scott tried a conventional putter at Doral, Innisbrook and Bay Hill. After a fool’s gold first round at Doral in which he had 24 putts, his work on the greens suddenly devolved into frighteningly bad, especially at close range. Asked later in the year what method he was considering after the ban, Scott said he was leaning strongly towards using the same long putter “unanchored,” seeming to dismiss the possibility of again using the conventional putter. Scott acknowledged his Florida nightmare by saying, “I know what I’m in for there.” At least from afar, it wasn’t an overreaction to worry that Scott’s putting problem had become career threatening.
But here’s the thing about Scott: for all his pretty-boy trappings and presumed inner fragility, the guy has grit. He works hard, stays the course, and is amazingly resilient. Many expected Scott to be broken by his collapse at Lytham, but instead he carried on. To his fans, his habitual tight smile after another crucial screw-up could be exasperating (C’mon, Adam! Get mad!), but in fact the stoicism is a strength. Scott is very good at not letting things get him down.
“I would love to have his calm demeanour,” says Stolz. “He never seems to get rattled out there, no matter what happens and this leads to my next point – Adam has an uncanny ability to have the same rhythm and tempo on every swing. It’s almost identical from driver to wedge. “In my opinion this is one of the most important parts of being consistent.
“A few of us pros call Scotty the mannequin because of his chiselled, well-tanned body. Some of those traits wouldn’t go astray in my game, either!”
A New Grip On Things
Scott took a proactive step at the end of 2015 when he changed course and began using a conventional-length putter, having been taught a new claw-style grip by short-game magician and countryman Brett Rumford. By February, the commitment was paying off as improved work on the greens had also energised his ball-striking. Scott was leading on the final nine of his second event of the year, at Riviera, until a couple of late misses from short range again left him runner-up. However, he took heart from his overall progress.
At the Honda Classic, Scott seemed to be cruising with a three-stroke lead on Saturday when he made a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 15th hole. But he held things together mentally and on the greens in a way that he too often hadn’t, and on Sunday brought home victory.
In the final round at Doral, Scott had two double-bogeys in the first six holes to fall six strokes behind. From that point he was superb, especially with the putter. His stroke was flowing and smooth, the ball rolling in at ideal speed. When Scott shanked a delicate sand shot on the 16th hole, he kept his nerve and saved par. With a one-stroke lead, Scott stayed aggressive on the terrifying 18th.
After a slightly pushed drive, his bold 8-iron from behind a tree failed to curve from left to right. But fortune favoured the brave, as the ball stayed on a steep bank bordering the water. From there, Scott forgot about the shank and finessed a flop shot to six feet. The putt was in all the way.
“I think everyone has been surprised at how well Scotty’s putting,” admits two-time US PGA Tour winner and former broomstick putter exponent Brett Ogle.
“But I have absolutely no doubt the four or so years Adam used the long putter actually helped him, mentally, to become a great putter again. People tend to forget he was putting the lights out back in 2003/’04 when he won The Players Championship. Then the pressure started to mount and he got the yips, and let me tell you, from experience, the yips are hard to shake.
“What the long putter did was give Adam confidence on the greens again and now he’s adopted a similar putting technique with the short putter.”
Ogle predicts a big few years for Scott but fell short of declaring he would go on a Major assault. “It’s impossible to predict how his playing resume will look in 10 years because it will depend largely on how he maintains those confidence levels,” he says. “But make no mistake about it – Adam Scott is too good of a player not to have several Major victories next to his name.”
Just One Of The Boys
Perhaps the most significant attribute Scott hasn’t changed is his personality and ability to stay grounded in the fantasy world that is pro golf. He remains arguably the most popular player amongst his tour colleagues because of his humility and the value he puts on mateship.
“The part of Adam Scott I like best is that despite his stature in the game he is still a regular guy doing regular things,” says Guyatt. “His fame has in no way changed him, as I found out after bumping into him in IKEA after the Australian PGA Championship. There he was, days after losing a playoff to Greg Chalmers, shopping in IKEA with his wife and taking the time to approach me and say ‘G’day’.”
Good friend Scott Gardiner agrees: “Scotty’s just a great guy that has stayed true to his roots. His best mates in high school are still his best mates to this day – and that’s what makes him a champion.”
Indeed Adam Scott seems transformed. For the moment at least, and perhaps for a long time, he has done that most difficult thing in competitive golf: turned his weaknesses into strengths.
For that, he deserves much credit.
What you can learn from Adam Scott’s new putting technique
By Jason Laws
HISTORY has shown us Adam Scott has been in prime position to win tournaments, only to fall short with missed putts. This year, however, moving from the broomstick to a conventional-length putter has seen a positive change for Scott, both in his confidence and his technique.
As with most shots in golf, it starts with a correct setup [below]. Scott’s shoulders are level, which allows his upper arms to be more ‘connected’ to his torso than his previous putting style allowed. It also allows his arms to hang naturally in the centre of his body. The shorter putter now encourages Scott to position his head directly over the line of the ball – something he couldn’t do as well with the long putter.
Retaining the claw grip helps Scott to swing the putter on a consistent path. Notice how the putterhead naturally closes through impact [below]. This new setup and grip is key to the putter staying lower at impact, which creates a more consistent roll, keeping the ball on its intended line. Scott’s newfound confidence in this setup is obvious from his recent results.
To gain more confidence in your putting, see your PGA professional to check you have the best putter for your putting style. Putters can be fitted to your game in the same way that all your other clubs can. I use the Ping putting app to determine what type of putting stroke my client has and which putter will suit them best.
If you have any questions about your putting style, email me at [email protected]