Scott a nice guy with mean game; contending at PGA

By Rex HoggardAugust 9, 2013, 8:40 pm

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Perched against that polarizing long putter, soft-spoken and regal against a gray summer sky it was hard to make out the form of an assassin – but it was there.

Those who contend Adam Scott is too nice, too accommodating, too engaging to ever become one of the game’s truly cold competitors hasn’t been paying attention. Mr. Congeniality – he may have been the most popular man to slip an arm into the green jacket this spring since Fuzzy Zoeller – may kill you with kindness, but he still kills you.

When Scott split with Butch Harmon in late 2009 the word on the street was it was the legendary swing coach’s attempt to light a fire under an infinitely talented player with a competitive version of attention deficit disorder. Life was more important than legacies, or so conventional wisdom went, which in Scott’s defense is not an entirely foreign concept among twenty-something millionaires.

Now, some three years later, the man whose swing has been most often compared to Tiger Woods’ action has outplayed the world No. 1 in nearly every Grand Slam event since then.

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Since Scott arrived at the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship wielding that broom-handle putter, he’s posted four top-3 finishes in the majors and won the Masters. In the lifetime before that breakthrough, the Australian had one top-3 showing in 39 major starts.

In a steady drizzle on Friday at Oak Hill he picked up where he left off at last month’s Open Championship, birdieing three of his first seven holes on his way to a 68 at the PGA Championship and a share of the early lead.

Once considered something of a loss-leader in the majors – pop quiz: who was paired with Woods and Phil Mickelson for Rounds 1 and 2 at the 2008 U.S. Open (hint: he’s Australian and finished tied for 26th at Torrey Pines) – Scott has become the picture of Grand Slam resilience.

“When you’re not 100 percent ready to win majors, every week is a big week, but then I feel like you get your game to a point where you’re trying to make sure it’s ready four times a year,” said Justin Rose, who was paired with Scott for Rounds 1 and 2 at Oak Hill. “Adam has done a great job of that the last couple of years. He’s the best player, by far, in the majors.”

If that is a tad too much hyperbole for you, consider that since the 2011 Masters, the year Scott arguably emerged as a major player, he’s finished second (2012 Open Championship), first (2013 Masters) and tied for third (2013 Open Championship) when it matters.

It wasn’t just the long putter, although the impact it has had on Scott’s game is significant, or that flyer that International Presidents Cup captain Greg Norman took in 2009 that wrested Scott out of his slide into irrelevance. It was something much more profound, something more subtle that completed the transformation.

In short, Scott became harder. He lured caddie Steve Williams into his camp, a bulldog by any other name, and set about shoring up the parts of his game that had made majors such a mystery.

When he bogeyed four straight late during the final round of last year’s Open Championship to lose to Ernie Els, some considered it the status quo for a player who had never been much of a major player.

When he rebounded from that heartbreak this year at Augusta National the one part of his game that always seemed suspect, his heart, effectively became beyond reproach.

Since his major awakening, Scott has proven himself adept at contending on links courses (Royal Lytham and Muirfield), parkland tracks (Oak Hill) and everything in between (Augusta National). As a rule, solid golf tends to travel.

It is a measure of how far he has come that while he fielded questions on Friday from the top of the PGA leaderboard he had no problem revisiting a time when such a situation seemed about as likely as a player winning a major with a long putter.

“The game can be frustrating when it’s not going the way you want it and the confidence is down,” Scott said. “Six months can slip away from you and the next thing you know your confidence is gone.”

Like most objects in the rearview mirror, Scott’s previous troubles seem closer to those watching from afar. But for Scott the incremental improvements in his game and game face have been as real as the steps leading from Oak Hill’s 18th green.

He’s no longer referred to in hushed tones as just “a nice guy, but a bit of an underachiever.” The prodigy has gone punisher, buoyed by the fact that at 33 he continues to get better. That he keeps getting meaner.

“I’ve got better golf in me still,” he said.

He may not win this week’s PGA Championship, but the difference now is that he knows he can.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry