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Old Man Amongst Boys

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AKRON, Ohio – Adam Scott is old.

OK, so maybe he’s not graying and wrinkled and covered with liver spots, but compared with his fellow contenders at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the man is downright ancient.

“I don't feel old,” said the 54-hole leader. “I still act like a teenager sometimes.”

Actually, he’s acting one better than a teenager – specifically, Ryo Ishikawa, who at 19 trails Scott by a stroke entering Sunday’s final round.

Ishikawa is joined in second place by Jason Day, 23, while one shot further back are Martin Laird, 28, and Keegan Bradley, 25. If you’re scoring at home, that means the four men chasing the 31-year-old Scott are an average age of just under 24.

How does it feel to be the old guy on the leaderboard?

“I'm just happy to be on the leaderboard,” Scott said after posting a third-round 4-under 66. “I don't care how old I am. It is amazing. Jason playing well again and Ryo - these guys, teenagers. It's unbelievable. I think golf is looking in good shape for the future, really, with players like this up here now.”

Back in the olden days – you know, like a year or two ago – Scott would have been considered an up-and-comer himself, still playing the front nine of what has already been a very successful career. While the seven-time PGA Tour champion has certainly yet to reach his prime, he now finds himself surrounded by a plethora of rising stars.

It’s not just this week, either.

Youth has gone wild at the game’s most elite level this season. Twelve different 20-somethings have won tournaments in the U.S., tying for the second-most since 2000. If there was a turning point to usher in the new era, it came at the U.S. Open, where 22-year-old Rory McIlroy obliterated the field by eight strokes.

“Going back five, maybe 10 years ago, 31 was young out here,” said Day, who posted a 4-under 66 in the third round. “It's only getting younger and I think with the technology that we have today, with the competition that we have over here and obviously around the world, the game of golf is only improving. And with improvement, that obviously involves the younger kids.”

Day and Ishikawa are part of a global fivesome that should be called “The League of Extraordinary Young Gentlemen,” along with McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Matteo Manassero. Between them, they represent not only the future of golf, but – as evidenced by the leaderboard – the present, too. In fact, Fowler is in a share of sixth place, just three strokes back; McIlroy is two strokes behind in T-10; and Manassero is “lagging” at nine off the pace and in 30th place.

“The game of golf is in really good shape right now, with Ishikawa playing great here, McIlroy always plays great, and then Fowler,” Day added. “It really is fun. Give us a good few years and it's going to be a lot of young players out here that are going to be in contention.”

Of course, if any of the young guns are going to learn a cautionary tale, Scott can be the guy to deliver it. Like each of the aforementioned quintet, he was a can’t-miss kid who hasn’t missed, but hasn’t exactly set the golf world ablaze, either.

It’s taken Scott quite a few years to figure out not only how to compete in the game’s biggest events, but how to contend in them. He is still searching for that elusive first major championship win, but is trending upward as of late, with a runner-up result at the Masters and T-25 at the Open Championship.

He has also never won a World Golf Championship event and a victory on Sunday would rank amongst his greatest career achievements.

If Scott is to take home the hardware and the $1.4 million winner’s check, he’ll need to overcome a bevy of young talents in contention.

But the old man believes he can do it.

“You know, I've been in this position before and I've won some and I've lost some, but a one-shot lead is not a lot over 18 holes, so by no means am I a clear favorite or anything,” he said. “I don't feel like there's a lot of pressure on me, I just want to play well [Sunday]. That's the main thing. And I think if I do that, I can win.”