After some wayward drives caused him to drop a few shots in the middle of the third round, Adam Scott recovered rather nicely, rolling in four birdies in the last seven holes to take the outright lead at twelve-under. He holds a one-stroke advantage over 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa and 23-year-old Jason Day, a fellow Aussie, going into Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
31-year-old Scott is practically a senior citizen amongst all the young talent on the leaderboard — besides Ishikawa and Day, there’s also Keegan Bradley, 25, and Martin Laird, 28, who are two shots off the pace at ten-under and tied for fourth. A little further back, Rickie Fowler, 22, is at nine-under, and there’s also Rory McIlroy, who is pacing himself, at seven-under.
But Scott is just fine with his position.
“I’m just happy to be on the leaderboard,” said Scott. “I don’t care how old I am. It is amazing. Jason’s playing well again and Ryo, these guys, teenagers. It’s unbelievable. I think golf is looking in really good shape for the future with players like this up here now. I think it’s really great to see Ryo play well this week over here. It’s big for him.”
Ah, you see, wise words.
Asked if he felt old, Scott quipped, “I still act like a teenager sometimes.”
(FYI, he’s been really charming in the press room this week. Yesterday, when Scott was in the interview room, he saw Phil Mickelson, who was wearing pink pants, on the TV, and joked, “Pretty, eh?” And the room erupted with laughter several times today, especially when he brought up “The Chair.” Adam is sneaky funny.)
Scott has been playing a fade this week, which is unusual for him, but it’s what’s working, so he had to adjust and not fight it. The bogeys on Nos. 6 and 10 were products of errant drives when he tried to draw the ball off the tee, but left them out to the right.
“I couldn’t get the ball working to the left, and I’ve been hitting the ball really nice the other way this week, left to right, so I just went back and hit everything left to right coming in,” said Scott. “I couldn’t be so stubborn and had to go left to right.”
He turned it around with a good drive on the 11th.
And then Scott got hot with his broomstick putter and rolled in a 13-footer on No. 12, followed by a 17-footer on No. 14 and a 30-footer on No. 15.
“After a couple weeks, I was kind of over the thing of ‘I am going to use a long putter,'” he said when asked if he felt self-conscious. “I could care less. I just want to make putts and make the game a little easier for myself, so it didn’t bother me too much. It turned a few heads in the locker room, but I think it’s justified itself so far.”
Scott added, smiling, “I think a few people have taken notice of how I’m putting.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have caddie Steve Williams, who was on Tiger Woods’ bag for seven victories at Firestone, helping Scott navigate the course.
“He’s seen most of the best golf I’ve ever played around this place,” said Scott. “And I think he’s got a very good understanding of this golf course and it certainly has helped me a few times when we’re pulling clubs because he just understands how far the ball is traveling on certain holes and situations. I think a couple times this week that’s been a big help. He’s on top of that.”
Stevie knows all the little tricks at Firestone. You know, like walking down No. 14 fairway, he zigzagged through the cart path to leave the bag on No. 15 tee (which is on the way) before cutting back through the walkway to the green. “Shortcut,” he said aloud to himself.
He might even be more popular than his current player. I sure heard a lot more cheers for Stevie than Scotty! On the 16th Adam threw a dart at the pin to tap-in range for birdie. A few fans yelled, “Nice number, Stevie!” He acknowledged the crowd, laughing.
Williams is also in a prime position to collect an eighth title at Firestone before his former boss Tiger, who struggled again on the greens and shot a ho-hum two-over 72.
Obviously, there are still 18 holes to play, and Scott, with Stevie in tow, still have their work cut out for them.
“I’m just going to look at it as a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a pretty bunched up leaderboard and a pretty tough golf course out there. I’m just going to have to play well to win tomorrow. You know, my strategy is just to have a chance when I’m coming down the stretch. I feel like my game is in good enough shape. The one thing I’m going to focus on is my rhythm, my rhythm of my golf swing and try and keep it nice and smooth because everything else feels good.
“I don’t feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me, I just want to play well tomorrow, and I think if I do that, I can win.”
If Scott succeeds, he’ll earn $1.4 million, and traditionally the caddie gets 10% of the purse for a win, which means Stevie will make $140,000 — more than Tiger this week.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)