AKRON, Ohio – When last we saw Adam Scott on this sprawling landscape that is Firestone Country Club, his expression proposed equal parts satisfaction and bemusement.
Satisfaction from an ability to defeat his fellow elite competitors and claim a World Golf Championship title, bemusement from the post-round scene that depicted cameras and reporters hovering around his caddie while Scott managed to quietly shy away from the spotlight.
Which is exactly how he likes it. The list of world-class players who could endure their looper calling it "the greatest win of my career" without feeling one shred of resentment may be counted on one hand, and Scott serves as the thumb, selflessly hitching his ride into the background.
The reminiscence is relevant exactly one year later, where, ironically, Scott was thrust into the spotlight Wednesday more for what he didn’t win than what he did.
It’s been 10 days since Scott lost the Open Championship in dramatic, heartbreaking fashion, posting bogeys on each of the final four holes before walking off the 18th green in a daze, the latest casualty of major championship pressure – or major championship fate, if you prefer.
In the time since, he has practiced a little, relaxed in the Swiss Alps and fielded phone calls from everyone from Greg Norman to “some people I don't know how they got my number.” If it sounds like ordinary, daily business as usual, that’s because it is. If you expected him to react any differently, you shouldn’t have.
“I really just felt a bit shocked and almost numb of feeling about it. I certainly didn't beat myself up and have to curl up in a corner,” Scott said, speaking to reporters for the first time since his post-round news conference Sunday at the British. “The next few days were quiet, but they were just the same as after any other major. I pretty much find myself on the couch for about 48 hours after a major.”
Some players would need 48 hours on a psychiatrist’s couch after being so close to winning the claret jug that the engraver could have been working on the “A” at the practice range. Not Scott. He maintained just minutes after the Royal Flush at Royal Lytham that he wouldn’t shed any tears over the loss and at least publicly he has kept that promise.
In fact, it appears everyone else – fellow players, fans, otherwise impartial observers – feels sorrier for Scott than he feels for himself. His inability to wallow in self-pity is not only commendable, it should serve as a case study for future heartachers enduring similar fallout from defeat.
Or anything else, for that matter. We should all own the indefatigable attitude and steely resolve of Scott, if for no other reason that it beats living life in a perpetual state of vulnerability.
“The reason I'm playing is to win some majors. That's what we're identified by at the end of our careers. How successful you were is how many majors you won,” said Scott, still pursuing his first. “Everyone has always said I'm a guy with potential to win majors or be a great player, but until you've got physical proof that you can do it, maybe you don't 100 percent believe it. And I think the way I look at it was that was the proof that I'm good enough to win major championships.
“Although I didn't finish like a champion [two weeks ago], I have in the past at other tournaments, so I know I've got that in me. It's just putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and I think that might have been the last piece for me.”
Too often major championship snafus are deemed as setbacks, golden opportunities which slip from the increasingly shaky hands of those trying to break through that seemingly impenetrable wall.
That notion couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ask Greg Norman. Ask Phil Mickelson. Hell, ask Jack Nicklaus, who came in second place more times than he won, those near-misses undoubtedly helping propel him to more victories later on.
You can even ask Ernie Els, who has dealt with his share of anguish at majors and was the beneficiary of Scott’s demise this time around.
“The pain is there, I know that,” Els said Wednesday. “But he's handling it unbelievably well, and I truly think that he now believes he can win multiple majors. He had an opportunity. It didn't quite happen his way.
“He's not the only one. And he's young enough where he can bounce back and win quite a few.”
In the aftermath of the Open, Scott has found a silver lining, seen a light at the end of the tunnel. Pick your favorite cliché of optimism and he is already living its definition.
You almost want him to pound his fist on the table. Yell. Cry. Blame someone else.
Instead, he’s handled losing with grace, class and a positive attitude that would make Tony Robbins blush.
“It was good to get back on the range and start hitting it,” he said. “I hit the first few balls, and I hit them nice like I was, and that was kind of a reminder like, it's not horrible and I don't know how to play golf anymore. It was just four holes that I'll have to learn from and be tougher on myself next time I'm in that position.”
Adam Scott doesn’t value the spotlight, doesn’t lust after it like so many other popular athletes. That doesn’t mean he can’t embrace it. It’s a testament to a man who doesn’t mind shying away from it when he wins and can still thrive in it when he loses.
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