Adam Scott pulled away from the youth movement on the back nine on Sunday, cruising to an impressive four-shot victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The 31-year-old Australian played nearly flawless golf, carding five birdies on his way to a bogey-free 65 at Firestone.
As Scott and his caddie Steve Williams strolled toward the 18th green, the crowd started chanting, “Ste-vie, Ste-vie!”
Let me tell you, it was a bit shocking. I mean, when have the fans cheered more for the caddie than the player? I haven’t been around long, but I’m going to go with never. I sat behind the green and I said to a colleague and friend, “Is this seriously happening?” The comments from the peanut gallery were entertaining. Some examples: “How do you like him now Tiger?”, “Tiger Who?,” and “I think you’ve been here before, Stevie!”
“I had no idea how popular a New Zealander can be,” cracked Scott, smiling.
Though Adam genuinely didn’t appear bothered, it’s unfortunate his dominant performance has been overshadowed by the amazingly egotistical or refreshingly honest comments (depending on how you see it ) made by Williams, who was recently fired by former boss of 12-plus years Tiger Woods.
“I’m really stoked to have won a World Golf Championship and win around this course in nice fashion,” said Scott, beaming, in his post-victory presser. “The way I closed it out, I was really happy with, too, so overall extremely happy.”
Scott played brilliantly from start-to-finish, kicking off the week with a 62 and then delivering when he came down the stretch to break away from the field. The victory marked his eighth on the PGA Tour and his first WGC title, which is a pretty big deal — it’s arguably the most prestigious win of his career. Though he did win The Players, the “fifth major,” in 2004. (Yes, it’s been seven years!)
“This is obviously one of the biggest wins of my career, to win a World Golf Championship is what I set out to do this year with the majors, a real focus on the big events, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far of getting myself in the hunt,” said Scott, whose best finishes this season include a T6 at the WGC at Doral, T2 at the Masters, T3 at the AT&T National, and T25 at the British Open.
“But that’s the goal is to give myself a chance to win these big events. It’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole career, and for whatever reason I haven’t performed my best. But I really feel like I’ve got a good plan in place to get myself ready for these events now.”
Could this be the start of Scott fulfilling those great expectations the golf world has had for him since he broke out on the pro scene? I think so. There’s no question Scott has the talent to win multiple majors, but until now, he was missing a piece or two to the puzzle — putting and swagger.
The genesis of Scott’s new confidence comes from the switch he made to the long putter in February. No one ever questioned Scott’s ballstriking prowess, but his putting on the other hand — well, let’s just say, he now rolls in five- to ten-footers with ease and regularity.
Remember, Scott finished second at the Masters before Stevie was on the bag. Wielding the broomstick putter, he staged a clinic on the greens coming down the stretch.
“Obviously I was so inconsistent with the short putter,” said Scott. “I didn’t know what was going to show up when I went out on the golf course, whether it was going to be a decent stroke or not.
“The long putter has certainly provided me with more consistency, and with that has come the confidence, and I think I’m really solid over any putt at the moment. I feel very good about it.”
Who would have thunk a year ago? Adam Scott has his putter to fall back on.
And let’s not forget, Scott’s beautiful ballstriking (and swing). Contrary to what Stevie made it sound like, Adam hit the shots. To be fair, I was confused at one point on Saturday when Scott threw a dart at the 16th pin for a kick-in birdie. The crowd reaction? “Nice number, Stevie!” I didn’t hear any say, “Nice shot, Adam!”
No doubt it didn’t hurt to have Stevie navigate him around Firestone, where he’d won seven times with Woods.
“He has such a great knowledge of this golf course and the greens,” said Scott on Stevie’s contributions. “He’s seen a guy play incredible golf, the best golf anyone has ever played around here so many times.
“He really guided me around the course nicely when he needed to step in and just make a point of where we need to be, he did, and had some great little notes in his book about putts on greens. And yeah, he knows this place very well, so he was, no doubt, a help.”
Williams, who clearly isn’t lacking in self-confidence, has likely helped to reinforce the swagger Scott has picked up in his persona and game. Perhaps Stevie was the final link to take Scott to the next level — Adam certainly has the talent and ability.
“(Stevie) really fills me with confidence,” Adam said.
Scott mentioned you have to “play like a bulldog to win a golf tournament and tennis great Rafael Nadal has been an inspiration to him. His caddie’s assured and assertive style has also forced Adam to be more aggressive.
“It’s almost like I need to show him, I’ve got it in me, because a lot of people question it,” said Scott. “I can show him on the golf course that I’m right up for it, as well.”
On the 72nd hole Adam considered laying up on the right side and hitting a 7-iron.
“And he said, ‘What are you talking about, hit a 6-iron straight at the pin,.’ Scott said, smiling. “And I hit a great shot. It was a good call because the better spot to miss it was left of the hole and not right. He sees those lines and he gets me to go for it. So that’s it for the confidence.”
I think Scott, along with others, took a mental beating all those years when Tiger was winning everything. Now things are different in the post-hydrant era.
(AP Photo/Matt Duncan)