AUGUSTA, Ga. — In the blinding mid-afternoon sun, Adam Scott was busy finding himself answering more of the same questions. He had just finished doing his weekly session with the media, when he was intercepted coming out of the back door by a familiar friend in the Australian media. The request was for a little bit of alone time for the usual inquiries: What happened in the final round of The Masters last year and how is he going to correct it this year.
Scott laughed as he folded himself in the back seat of a green golf cart with a round stick with a gold “180″ number on the side. A security guard in a white shirt and black pants hovered. Three Augusta National Golf Club members chit-chatted a few yards away.
It was the treatment of a man who already owns a Green Jacket, not one of a man who came up two strokes short. But this is the dilemma that the 31-year old faces this week.
How do you convince everyone — including yourself — that you didn’t lose a major championship which you lost?
“It’s hard to change anything,” Scott said Monday. “Because in the end, i was two shots behind and I can’t find two more shots out there. I didn’t birdie the par-5s on Sunday, but I birdied some other holes which I wouldn’t expect to. So, you know, I just got beat last year. It was just good golf — great golf — and I don’t feel like I lost. But if you’re going to lose, I’d rather lose like that.”
Silver linings are often the go-to method for the player who finishes in second place. Scott — along with fellow countryman, Jason Day — were the unlucky victims of playing great golf on Sunday at The Masters last year, but simply getting beat. That’s what happens when for the first time in the tournament’s 75-year history, a player birdies the final four holes in the final round.
So in Scott’s mind, Charl Schwartzel won The Masters. He did not lose it.
“Look, I hit one bad shot on Sunday — and that was on the 15th,” he said. “I blocked a 5-iron right and ended up making par. It’s hard to be critical of that. I stood up on the next and hit a great 7-iron to a foot or so and made a birdie.”
That one shot didn’t even end up costing Scott.
Normally the formula on Sunday at Augusta National is a simple one: Sprinkle enough birdies around pars and you more than likely will find yourself getting fitted for a Green Jacket alongside Jim Nantz in Butler Cabin. Scott did just that.
Fired a 5-under 67.
Made par on the final two holes of the day.
Lost by two strokes.
“Maybe as a player I learned a few things,” Scott said. “I think it was the first time late on a Sunday that I had a chance. I walked to the 17th tee with a one-shot lead and parred the last two holes — which I thought was pretty good on those holes. And normally, that is pretty good. But what happened last year was extraordinary by Carl. I’m not disappointed with anything I did that day.
“I think under pressure, I played some really good golf coming in and that’s what I learned about myself and where my game is at and where my head is at as a player.”
That’s all well and good, but is it enough to crack a trend that has haunted Masters runners-up for almost the last three decades?
Both Australians are hoping to try and become the first second-place finishers since Ben Crenshaw in 1984, to come back and win the Green Jacket the following year. In 1983, Crenshaw finished in a tie for second place with Tom Kite behind Seve Ballesteros. The next year, Crenshaw beat Tom Watson by two strokes to win his first Masters title.
“I don’t feel too much pressure at all,” Scott said. “I’m certainly probably not considered one of the favorites. There are a lot of other guys who have been playing very well so far this year.”
Perhaps that’s why the Aussie seemed so mellow about what happened here last year. Coming up two shots shy of a first major title — let alone winning at Augusta National — might be enough to fluster even the best of players. But Scott never saw last year as a loss. He saw it as doing everything he needed to do to win and simply being bested.
“I think I take a lot of confidence our of last year in how I played the golf course and how I played on Sunday on the back nine in particular,” he said. “So I’ll be looking to draw on that experience and hopefully keep that momentum going.”
Contributor Brendan Prunty is the golf writer for the Newark Star-Ledger in New Jersey. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be followed at Twitter.com/BrendanPrunty. Read his work at nj.com/golf. This is his second Masters tournament.