Scott continues pattern of squandering opportunity

By Ryan LavnerMarch 24, 2014, 1:15 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Adam Scott as world No. 1? Hopefully those posters never went to the printer.

His supposed coronation at Bay Hill only led to more final-round consternation.

Up by a touchdown at the halfway point, Scott went into prevent defense and punted away several chances on the back nine Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. With two weeks until the year’s first major, he’s now in need of both a short-game cleanup and confidence boost.

What the heck happened?

Wire-to-wire winners are rare because, eventually, over 72 holes, a player shows a few weaknesses. He plays a few loose shots. He whiffs a few short putts. He begins to fade. He tires. The hope, of course, is that the damage during this inevitable downturn isn’t too severe, or that the lead is insurmountable.

The latter was the case at last fall’s Tour Championship. Henrik Stenson led by nine at one point, only to watch as his weekend lead nearly evaporated. A few bogeys – and a few surges from the pursuers – can create a drowning sensation.

“When you have a big lead and it comes back to you, you feel like you have lost something but you really haven’t,” Stenson recalled Sunday. “It had just felt like a done deal. It’s never easy, even though everyone expects you to win.”

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Well, of course we expected Scott to win.

Here he was – at one of Tiger’s playgrounds, with Tiger’s old swing and caddie – on the verge of becoming world No. 1 while the proud champion he was dethroning stayed home with an achy back. And besides, closing out a seven-shot lead with 36 to play is what the second-ranked player in the world is supposed to do.

Instead, Scott threw up a 71-76 to blow his best chance not only to win this season but also to ascend to world No. 1 for the first time.

And make no mistake: There’s a lot of fresh scar tissue now on that chiseled frame.

There was the 2012 British Open, where he bogeyed the last four holes to lose by one.

And the 2013 Open, where he held the lead on the back nine Sunday but bogeyed three holes in a row to leave without the claret jug – again.

And the 2013 Australian Open, where he squandered a four-shot lead – and the Scottie Slam – on the final day.

And now this – a five-bogey 76 that left him two shots behind Matt Every’s 13-under 275.

“I’m annoyed that I didn’t do better today,” Scott said afterward. “Sometimes you’ve got to be hard on yourself. Sometimes you don’t. I think I was getting into a really good spot and had an opportunity here to run away with an event and really take a lot of confidence. I’m taking confidence, anyway, just from some good play. But some opportunities you’ve got to take.”

For all the talk of his soon-to-be-banned broomstick, there’s little disputing that the putter remains Scott’s greatest weakness, his biggest obstacle to being a prolific major winner. Though he’s 18th in strokes gained-putting in limited action this season, history tells us that is unlikely to last. He hasn’t finished inside the top 100 in that statistic since 2007.

Scott needed only 23 putts during a first-round, course record-tying 62, but he wasn’t the same player on the greens the rest of the way. He took 30-plus swipes during both weekend rounds – including 32 on the final day, with only five one-putts – but still had opportunities to either win outright or force a playoff coming down the stretch.

On the par-5 16th, he lined up a 20-foot eagle putt, but sent his first putt 4 feet by and misread the comebacker. On the very next hole, he tugged a 7-footer for par.

“After missing a couple over the last couple of days, doubt creeps into your reads,” he said. “You need to be certain, and I wasn’t 100 percent on.”

Now, his chances at Augusta likely depend on regaining that trust.

“If nothing else,” he said, “this was a good reminder on how much putting practice I need to do for the Masters and just how important it is.”

On more than one occasion recently Scott, a 10-time winner at age 33, has mentioned that he must capitalize on these upcoming years – the peak years – if he’s to vault into truly elite company.

On Saturday night, after his seven-shot advantage was trimmed to three, he explained it thusly:

“If I only win one tournament in the peak time in my career, it’s no different than the rest of my career so far. I’ve got to create these chances more often and I’ve got to take them more often than I have. I’ve got to start closing at a better rate than ever before.”

Well, he created the chances Sunday – to play a solid round, to win emphatically, to reach a lifelong dream and become world No. 1 – only to kick them away. Some coronation.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x