PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A playful reminder for Adam Scott: The Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is not match play.
Of the players who have returned to Pebble Beach because the U.S. Open is coming in June, no one has stayed away longer than Scott. The last time he played was in 1999, when he lost in the first round of the U.S. Amateur.
It seemed like he was never away.
“I’ve been watching this golf course on television a lot, just because of what it is,” Scott said. “The holes are memorable. You know what’s happened out there. Spectacular holes along the ocean. That says a lot about the golf course if you remember the holes.”
Scott didn’t bother trying to qualify for the 2000 U.S. Open because he made his pro debut the following week. The Australian was 19 when he played the European Grand Prix in England, tying for 61st.
What followed were 10 good years, all filled with victories, including The Players Championship and the Tour Championship. He climbed as high as No. 3 in the world in the summer of 2008.
And then came a disastrous year.
Scott missed six cuts in a row, and the more he tried to fix it, the worse it got. He took a break from longtime swing coach Butch Harmon and tried to go back to fundamentals. It appeared to be working when he tied for fourth against a strong field at Loch Lomond in the British Open. Then he drove down to Turnberry, and missed another cut.
And while he missed the cut at Riviera last week, Scott’s optimism is running high.
“It’s the start of a new decade, and I’m kind of seeing it as a fresh start for me,” he said Wednesday. “I probably learned more in the last 12 months than I did in the first 10 years of being a professional. I feel like I might have wised up a bit. Struggling a little bit last year will certainly help me in the long run.”
Moments earlier, Sergio Garcia was wrapping up an interview with a local broadcaster when he went over to the table were Scott was sitting, leaned it and shared a few laughs.
It was a light moment, although they could have just as well been talking about their year.
Garcia had one to forget, too. The Spaniard, who turned 30 last month, was distracted by his break-up with Greg Norman’s daughter and failed to win a tournament anywhere in the world. Garcia, who last March had a chance to go to No. 1 in the world, is now at No. 15. Along with not winning, he injured his right wrist at the end of the year and went seven weeks without touching a club.
And just like Scott, it’s been a while since Garcia played Pebble Beach, too.
He tied for 46th in the 2000 U.S. Open, then played the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with his sister as his amateur partner, and his father caddying for his sister. Garcia is back on the Monterey Peninsula because of the schedule – one week before the Match Play Championship, four weeks before the U.S. Open.
As for his outlook on the year?
“It’s hard to say,” Garcia said. “I’ve not been able to do much work this offseason. So these first couple of months for me is kind of like my offseason, trying to get back into it. I feel like I’m slowly getting better at it. I feel like I’m swinging the club better. I know what I’m doing. It feels good.
“So it’s just a matter of keeping hard at it, and hopefully get back to that level.”
Garcia is playing with actor Josh Duhamel at the Monterey Peninsula on Thursday, while Scott starts out at Spyglass Hill, out of the celebrity rotation.
Monterey Peninsula is new to the rotation this year and getting strong reviews, with some saying it’s every bit as good as Pebble Beach. That should help make the week more enjoyable, along with a field that has been reduced from 180 to 156 players.
The forecast is even decent, with most of the rain out of the way.
Scott and Garcia can only hope they’ll have a decent forecast for the rest of their season.