Adam Scott's winning putt trickled into the left side of the hole on Augusta National's 10th green. He raised his arms in exaltation, pointing toward the heavens as the demons from both his own past and all of Australia were lifted from his shoulders, while thousands of waterlogged fans cheered on with unabashed glee.
It was in those moments that an overwhelming idea consumed my thoughts: This guy is going to be a superstar.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Scott’s first major championship pushed him to a rank of third in the world, padding a resume that previously included wins at The Players Championship, Tour Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Australian Masters. In golf terms, he already is a superstar.
That’s certainly true, but as I watched him give his best “I’m king of the world!” impersonation, DiCaprio-style, it dawned on me that Scott is the unique golfer whose brand could extend well beyond the boundaries of the golf course.
Let’s go through the checklist: Scott is young, single, good-looking, rich and successful. If he were a baseball player, he'd be a five-tool player. He's the type of guy who men want to be and women want to be with. Throw in a few bonus attributes such as a lack of known skeletons in the closet and an accent stolen directly from Russell Crowe, and he’s exactly what Central Casting would fetch if you requested a Masters champion.
In a sport thirsting for superstars – with Tiger Woods still battling a tarnished image, Phil Mickelson pitching arthritis meds and Rory McIlroy clamoring for more time away from the spotlight – Scott has an opportunity to become a household name, if not face. There are already rumors that “The Bachelor” wants to feature him. Next up could be “Dancing With the Stars,” “Most Beautiful People” nominations and red carpet walks with the starlet of the week.
Turns out, it's not that easy.
“Prior to the Masters, he was below average in terms of awareness and consumer appeal,” Henry Schafer told me with bubble-bursting candor.
He should know. Schafer is the executive vice president for The Q Scores Company, which measures such things by giving numerical values to a player based on polling of the masses.
Even so, I tried again. I listed Scott’s five tools and the lack of skeletons and the accent and – of course – the newly minted green jacket.
Schafer countered by informing me that out of 43 male and female professional golfers whose data was analyzed last month, Scott’s Q Score ranked 37th.
Well, maybe that’s just because non-golf fans didn’t recognize him before, I fired back. Maybe now that the general population has caught a glimpse of his worldliness, he’ll become the type of the guy who can’t walk down the street without being hounded for autographs.
Maybe not, Schafer responded. That ranking of 37th out of 43 golfers? It was actually among people who consider themselves fans of the game. When you factor in those who don’t like, follow or care about the game, Scott is much lower. Among all sports fans, his Q Score as of last month was a 12. By comparison, Tiger Woods was a 26 and the “average sports personality” was a 16. Which means that, yes, our newest hero is indeed below average.
I heard what he was saying, but refused to give up. What about Bubba Watson’s growth after winning last year’s Masters?
“His awareness stayed about the same,” Schafer said. “I would tell him, ‘You didn’t get yourself out there. You got stronger among people who knew you, but you didn’t expand your consumer base. Basically, you were preaching to the choir.’”
And this is a guy who invented the Bubbacraft, sang in a music video and made appearances on more talk shows than most people even knew existed.
As if that wasn’t enough, then Schafer really laid it down for me.
“Good looks are definitely part of the whole package, but more important is his personality,” he continued. “How he comes across in interviews and appearances off the golf course. I’d like to see him on the ‘Today Show,’ the ‘Tonight Show,’ ‘Good Morning America,’ ‘Ellen.’ He needs to get himself out there beyond the playing field and see how the public reacts.
“Tom Brady is better looking than Peyton Manning and he’s won more Super Bowls, but he doesn’t get more endorsements than Peyton. It’s all about how you can create a connection with consumers. For Adam Scott, that won’t come from just winning a golf tournament.”
Uh-oh. Despite being known as congenial and approachable, Scott is also fiercely private, choosing to live in relative anonymity in both Switzerland and the Bahamas rather than professional golf hotbeds such as South Florida or Scottsdale. It makes for a pleasant existence, but doesn’t exactly scream “create a connection with consumers.”
“We are playing out in the public eye, and you do lose some of your privacy with that,” Scott said a few years ago. “There are certain times that it's been uncomfortable and I'm not used to that if it's away from the golf course, because I think by nature I'm a fairly shy person and don't like to attract a lot of attention to myself.”
Even so, much like Scott following last year’s Open Championship collapse, if at first I didn’t succeed in finding a way he could be cultivated as a superstar outside of the golf industry, I was going to try, try again. OK, maybe just one more try.
So I called David Newman, who is the vice president of analytics for Atlanta-based agency Career Sports and Entertainment. But the news didn’t get much better.
Using E-Poll Market Research, which compiles data using 48 different analytics, Newman informed me that as of the last nationwide sampling of 1,100 people, only four percent even knew Scott existed.
“You kind of forget,” he reminded the golf writer who DVRs tournaments for fun, “He’s not a household name.”
It gets worse. Of the four percent who even recognized Scott in the first place, only eight percent considered him influential and seven percent called him trustworthy. Kind of makes you think: Did they only poll his ex-girlfriends or something?
There is a silver lining, though. Prior to his Masters victory last year, Watson only had an awareness of three percent, but that number leapt to 13 percent afterward, an ascendancy Newman called “a monumental jump.” Whereas Scott’s E-Score – which takes into account all of those analytics – was a 39 before his win, Watson was just a 16, but now measures 80 – a number equal to Usain Bolt, Blake Griffin and Lindsey Vonn in the sports world and the eclectic trio of Megan Fox, Van Morrison and James Van Der Beek in the entertainment industry.
“The first step is getting national awareness,” Newman said. “Adam is now taking that leap and he has those other attributes – clean image, untarnished background, attractive and people want to be around him. That’s what marks the flag. He’s got a real chance.”
A real chance – but a real chance at what, exactly?
Based on the data, it seems like Scott could make a decent run at superstar status, but much like winning a green jacket, that doesn’t come easy. You know the old saying, “A star is born”? Apparently it isn’t true. You have to work at it. Considering his propensity to shy away from the limelight, he may be more than happy to take his fleeting 15 minutes of fame outside of the golf world, and then retreat to relative anonymity.
So, sure, Adam Scott has all the markings of a superstar. He’s young, single, good-looking, rich and successful. No known skeletons. Cool accent. Everything, it appears, except perhaps the desire to be a superstar. And if I learned anything in my search to find out whether his fame could extend beyond golf’s boundaries, it’s that desire may be the most important attribute of all.