AUGUSTA, Ga. – This is not giving away a trade secret, but journalists are a finicky bunch.
We don’t play well with others. We fuss about parking, we complain about access. We question the courage of those we cover while sitting in an air-conditioned room eating free ice cream.
But damn it, we recognize a good story.
We’re taught that there is no cheering in the media center. We cheer for no one, against no one. We root for the best story. We pull for history.
The dashing Aussie walked into an interview session an hour after winning his first major and nearly the entire room applauded for the most recent member of the green jacket fraternity.
Couldn’t help it.
Scott, you see, was the best story this week. He deserved to win this major as much as anyone has ever deserved to win a major.
Not just any major. This major. The Masters. Where Aussies have struggled for decades. Where Greg Norman ran into Jack Nicklaus in 1986, Larry Mize in 1987, and himself in 1996 via an epic collapse against Nick Faldo. Where Scott shot 67-67 over the weekend two years ago only to lose to CharlSchwartzel’s four birdies over the last four holes.
Scott, 32, had major championship scar tissue, although he wouldn’t admit it. The 2011 Masters caused some of it, but last summer’s British Open caused the most damage when Scott blew a four-shot lead over the last four holes to cough up the claret jug to Ernie Els.
He handled that meltdown with class. In fact, Scott was so calm in the aftermath that it seemed like others felt sadder for Scott than he did for himself.
“Everything I said after the Open is how I felt, and I meant it,” Scott said this Sunday. “It did give me more belief that I could win a major. It proved to me, in fact, that I could.”
Well, he did. And now he never again has to answer why he hasn’t.
It’s amazing what draining epic putts of 20 feet in regulation and 12 feet in a sudden-death playoff to win a green jacket will do.
Just 24 hours earlier Scott, one of golf’s good guys, was a veritable underachiever who had won big events but didn’t have the toughness to win the game’s biggest, most important tournaments.
Now, the major floodgates have opened and Scott is on top of the world. He’s gone from a man who couldn’t win a major to a man we expect to win several majors.
Funny how that works.
“Everybody questioned whether he had the intestinal fortitude to do that, but we all knew it,” said Norman, Scott’s idol growing up as a young mate in Oz. “The players knew it. He’s got the game to do it, and I was just extremely happy for him.”
So now we look to the future.
Scott has won nine PGA Tour events, and there aren’t too many clunkers on his resume. He’s won a World Golf Championship, a Players Championship, a Tour Championship and now a Masters. Heady stuff.
Now that the major monkey is off his back, Scott can play with less pressure. Consider this: Scott should own two of the last three majors. Obviously he doesn’t, but he’s too good a player to falter as dramatically as he did at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. It’s an exception, not the rule.
It’s not foolish to believe Scott could win multiple majors over the next six to eight years. He’s proved he can contend at the British Open and has a great record at the PGA Championship. His U.S. Open record is spotty, but this year’s championship is at Merion, a place where you have to think your way around the golf course. Scott is one of the game’s great thinkers.
Besides, Scott seems to have figured out the formula for contending in majors, having done so five times in the last nine big events.
The newly minted champ has competitively starved himself the past two years. While many top players feel the need to mold their games into shape while battling tournament conditions, Scott only plays events he feels he can win. He wants to miss competitive golf, so when he shows up on the first tee he desires the chase.
An old approach where he globetrotted the first decade of his career nearly burned him out. Now he’s made peace with preparation and doesn’t need to play 30-plus times a year.
The Masters was only Scott’s fifth event of the year. He’s fresh.
“Adam can go on to win more major championships because of his age and because of his experience and because he’s finally got one under his belt,” Norman said.
If you’re not thrilled for Scott, you have no heart. This victory meant very much to many people. Every win does. But this is infinitely different. For Scott and his country.
“He probably had more pressure on him today than any other player on the planet, because he was playing not only for the millions of Australians, but he was playing against the entire field and there was more pressure on him because no Australian has ever done it,” Norman said. “It’s a monumental task, and I’m so happy for him.”
Said Scott: “It's amazing that it's my destiny to be the first Aussie to win (the Masters). Just incredible.”
As the rain continued to fall over the Augusta grounds late Sunday, Jason Day, heartbroken after coming up two shots shy of the playoff, searched for a television to watch the waning moments.
He couldn’t be the first Australian to win, but he was rooting for his compatriot.
“I’m pulling for Scotty to finally win the Masters and be the first player to do it,” Day said. “If it wasn’t myself, I really want it to be Scotty.”
It was. And most at Augusta National rejoiced, even those who have rules against it.