- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2007

Adam Scott emerges from the scorer’s hut at Oakmont with only a hint of annoyance on his classic Roman features. The 26-year-old Australian has just missed the cut at the 107th U.S. Open. But a casual bystander would never know it.

Scott is gutted inside, his 76-82 meltdown at Oakmont constituting the worst two-round total of his major career. On the outside, he’s utterly composed.

Entering the Open, some listed Scott just behind Tiger Woods as the Oakmont favorite. He rolled into the season’s second major off a pair of top-10 finishes and left swing instructor Butch Harmon beaming at his practice-session ball-striking.

Then the steel curtain otherwise known as Oakmont came crashing down on the World No. 4, ending his streak of 11 consecutive made cuts at majors in spectacular fashion.

Most players would have sulked away in silence or spit stilettos at anyone brazen enough to interrupt their misery. Given the average twentysomething psyche combined with the gulf between performance and expectation, perhaps some expected Scott to go completely Krakatoa and engage in a total post-round eruption.

But Scott has always been more Burberry than bile, too classy and too cool for caterwauling in public.

“It’s disgraceful, embarrassing, but I really don’t have the answers right now, other than poor rhythm,” Scott succinctly explains to the gaggle of reporters. “I missed fairways, missed greens and didn’t make a putt for two days.”

This is Adam Scott, golf’s gift to grace … even on his worst day.

Aesthetically speaking, nobody in the game can compete with Scott.

Ask a member of the fairer sex about the young Aussie, and you’re guaranteed to provoke a sigh.

Like his idol Greg Norman before him, women of all ages swoon in the wake of the angular lad from Adelaide.

Maria Sharapova recently put golf’s most eligible bachelor on her list of fantasy doubles partners, along with a playful request: “Night match, please?” On his way to the first tee of the 2004 Kemper Open, a young woman slipped him a note containing a phone number and the suggestion that some “night lessons” were in order.

Scott won the event with a record-matching low score (21-under, 263), one of his 10 victories on the PGA and European Tours. But flight plans precluded him from celebrating with his saucy young suitor.

Ask an analyst or instructor about Scott’s swing, and you’ll likely hear a similarly wistful sigh.

When Harmon recently took on World No. 2 Phil Mickelson, the planet’s most notable golf coach made certain everyone knew that Scott was still his primary pupil. Loyalty? Perhaps. But the cynic inside has to think Harmon, the man who originally groomed Woods for greatness, knows exactly which stallion he’d ultimately choose for his chariot.

“The two guys I think about when you say young and supremely talented are Adam Scott and Paul Casey,” said NBC analyst Johnny Miller before last month’s Open. “In terms of best swings, it’s a no-brainer; Adam Scott’s swing is a carbon copy of Tiger circa 2000. It’s the envy of every player on tour.”

But that envy hasn’t engendered the expected level of subtle spite among Scott’s playing peers. Perhaps that’s because Scott has somehow managed to avoid the youthful superstar’s pitfall of petulance.

For a young man with extraordinary talent, a double-digit victory total, model-caliber good looks, homes in three countries (England, Australia and Switzerland) and a wallet that would crush Ayers Rock, Scott is shockingly down to earth —and extremely thoughtful.

“Let’s face it, it’s tough for anybody to get a big head with Tiger around,” said Scott. “You don’t have to look very far for a nice dose of perspective.”

Insiders marveled last season when Scott returned from the airport to Winged Foot to congratulate countryman Geoff Ogilvy on his U.S. Open victory and make sure Ogilvy’s wife, Julie, wasn’t lost in the chaos.

“I didn’t know if [Ogilvy’s] management and everything was there,” said Scott. “I knew Julie obviously was there and pregnant, and I didn’t know if anyone was there to look after her, so I just thought it would be nice if I went back.”

That amiable personality, coupled with his massive game, makes Scott one of the most liked and respected players on Tour.

The Washington Times asked 15 players at last month’s Memorial to list the three current players most likely to challenge Woods over the next decade. While the typical response began with some semi-snide riff on the you-mean-which-player-will-finish-second-to-Tiger-most-often theme, Scott was the only player referenced by all 15 of his peers. Nobody else even managed a majority vote.

“He’s the guy I think we’ve all been waiting on to explode,” said three-time major champion Ernie Els. “If his short game ever catches up to his ball-striking, watch out.”

That hasn’t happened yet, particularly in the majors, where Scott’s record is surprisingly modest (one top-five finish in 25 starts), given his otherwise glowing resume.

“He’s won two pretty good tournaments in the Players and the Tour Championship,” said Woods at the Memorial. “He just hasn’t seemed to have contended in majors. But, hey, he’s still young. He’s not quite 27, and he’s got all the talent in the world.”

Last month’s hiccup at Oakmont aside, Scott’s steady career progression suggests regular contention in majors is just a matter of time.

After he turned pro in 2000, Scott earned his European Tour card in just 11 starts. Over the next three seasons, Scott collected four European Tour victories, honing his game for a full-time move to the States in 2004. Since joining the PGA Tour following his victory at the 2003 Deutsche Bank, he’s added four more victories, including the Players Championship (2004) and Tour Championship (2006).

He’s leading the PGA Tour in birdies per round (4.11) this season and has posted five top-10s including a victory (Houston Open) in just 11 starts.

His progression in majors has followed a similar arc. After making just five cuts in his first 13 Slam starts, Scott had survived to play on 11 straight major weekends before last month’s Open stumble, recording a career-best T3 finish at last year’s PGA Championship.

“I think the last couple of years I’ve had a better outlook on the majors,” said Scott. “I think maybe I got swept up in trying to win them too fast and too young. I think I finally realized that what Tiger does is not normal. … There are a few exceptions to that. I know Ben Curtis won a major quite young [2003 British Open at 26], and Sergio [Garcia] has had his chances, but he hasn’t won yet. I mean, it’s not about being patient because I don’t think any great athlete is that patient. But a lot of things have to go your way, and it has to be the right week.

“I think now I understand what I need to do to prepare for them and the mindset I need to have while I’m out there playing. Before, if I was really honest with myself, I probably didn’t believe I could win a major.”

Courtesy of its dual hosts (Tiger Woods and Congressional), this week’s AT&T; National will have a bit of a major feel to it. And Scott, who finished T2 to Sergio Garcia on Old Blue at the 2005 Booz Allen Classic, will clearly be one of the pre-tournament favorites.

“I really do feel like my time is coming, in the majors and otherwise,” said Scott. “I’ve spent the last several years preparing myself to step on that stage and perform, so when the moment arrives, I’ll be ready.”

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