LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Adam Scott is a man of few words. He speaks slowly, softly and gives each question an honest, thoughtful answer. He makes the boy next door jealous.
On Saturday after three rounds of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Scott summed up his situation perfectly when he said, “I don’t know what to expect tomorrow. I’ve not really teed off the last group of the Open before.”
Short and to the point.
The 32-year-old Australian is a world-class player. He’s won 18 times around the world, including eight times on the PGA Tour. He’s won The Players Championship, he’s won a World Golf Championship and he’s been ranked as high as No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
But he’s sniffed contention in a major championship only once.
Now it’s twice. Scott leads the Open Championship after three silky smooth rounds (64-67-68) at 11 under par. Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker are tied for second place at 7 under. Tiger Woods is fourth at 6 under.
Scott has seven top-10 finishes in majors but the only real opportunity he’s had to collect one came last year at the Masters where he tied for second. Scott shot consecutive 67s that weekend but on that historic Sunday at Augusta National Charl Schwartzel snatched the green jacket from everyone when he birdied the final four holes in epic fashion.
“He's been out here a long time,” Woods said. “I don't think he's really done probably as well as he'd like to in major championships.”
The way Scott has played for 54 holes, he appears unbeatable. His smooth swing has found fairways and greens around benign Lytham with the greatest of ease. His broomstick putter has allowed him to make putt after putt without nerves becoming a nuisance. No putt was more impressive than the 30-footer Scott made for par on the par-4 10th hole Sunday after he found a bunker off the tee. Scott then birdied No. 12.
Another key moment came late in the day on No. 17 when Scott blew his approach shot well right of the green and into one of Lytham’s 205 bunkers. Scott said the shot was not difficult, but bogey was clearly a possibility. Instead, he slid a sand wedge gently under the ball and nearly holed the shot. He settled for par.
The stars seem to be aligned here at the game’s oldest major. First, the last 15 majors have been won by 15 different men. Scott would up the streak to 16 as we head to the PGA Championship in two weeks. Second, Scott has Woods’ former swing and Woods’ former caddie, and Woods happens to be playing in the group ahead with Snedeker.
“Well, four-shot lead doesn’t seem to be very much this year on any golf tournament that I’ve watched,” Scott said. “The good part is if I play a solid round of golf tomorrow, it will be very hard for the others to beat me. That’s all I’m thinking about.”
The majors are all Scott care about anymore and he’s not pleased that his name surfaces each time there’s a debate about the best players in golf who haven’t won a major. Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker… Scott.
To get more serious about the majors Scott developed a plan last year to competitively “starve” himself more so that he’ll be fresh each time a big one comes around. Essentially it means he’s done playing 30 times a year as he did the first decade he was on the PGA Tour.
This philosophy led to better performances in the majors last season. While other top players feel they need to mold their games into shape while battling tournament conditions, Scott couldn’t care less. That was his old approach, one that nearly burned him out and made him turn sour toward a game he was supposed to star in for a long time.
The time for Scott is now. His moment is within reach. He’s worked his entire life to do what it is he’s in position to do. He vividly recalls watching his idol Greg Norman win the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges in 1993, the last time an Australian won the claret jug. He’s aware that the last time an Australian won a major championship was Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 at the U.S. Open.
Scott is lucky that he’s in a position where he won’t have to press. Others will have to come chase him.
“It will be in Adam’s hands tomorrow,” said McDowell, who will be playing alongside Scott on Sunday in the Open’s final pairing. “He’s going to have to go win it.”
Said Scott: “I'm really excited for what tomorrow holds. No matter what the result, it's going to be an incredible experience for me.”