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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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.