Hawk's Nest: Collapses bookend Florida swing


Golf can do worse than to have Adam Scott emerge as its mainstream poster boy. The guy is James Bond handsome, thoughtful and articulate, and if Scott doesn’t have charisma oozing from his pores, nobody ever accused Tiger Woods of owning a 10-gallon personality, either.

As the Woods Dynasty staggers toward destinations unknown, our game finds itself in search of a new superhero. Tiger hasn’t worn the cape in a while, anyway, but with the Florida swing in the rear-view mirror and the Masters just a mile or two up the road, it has become increasingly difficult to identify the world’s best player.

You could make a case that it’s still Tiger, but when you haven’t won a major title in 5 ½ years – or a tournament of any size in eight months – you’ll need a good lawyer. Meanwhile, Florida began with the game’s brightest young star blowing a huge Sunday lead at PGA National, then ended with the best semi-young player squandering an even bigger lead at Bay Hill.

Scott and Rory McIlroy have proven, yet again, that greatness is a tough fish to hook – and no easy chore to haul into the boat. Woods never drifted back to the field in his heyday. Bob May almost killed the Tiger Slam. Chris DiMarco came close to slaying the beast a couple of times, but it wasn’t until Y.E. Yang that a vastly inferior player caught Red Shirt on a day when he wasn’t wearing his bulletproof vest.

The less these would-be superstars accomplish, the more astounding Woods’ feats of superiority become.

I THOUGHT THOSE things were illegal,” my buddy, a non-golfer, said of Scott’s putter during our phone conversation Sunday afternoon.

“Not yet,” I explained. “The rule doesn’t go into effect until 2016, so the USGA guys have plenty of time to move to a deserted island before the pros start missing 3-footers.”

There are times when those who don’t play this game see it with more clarity than those who do. “This guy [Scott] ought to think about switching before then,” Mike replied. “Tomorrow wouldn’t be a bad time.”

Scott’s putting woes obviously cost him in a big way at Bay Hill – not just a victory, but the No. 1 spot in the world ranking and a perfectly timed bolt of Masters momentum. “It was nice, the first couple of days,” he said. “But it’s a different story when you’ve got to hit a bunch of 6- and 10-footers with the pressure on.

It’s easy to think that a 33-year-old guy who carries a broomstick will have his confidence shaken by such a poor final-round performance, and that was certainly the message conveyed by the NBC fellas who handled the telecast. I would beg to differ. Scott suffered one of the most unsightly collapses in major-championship history down the stretch at the 2012 British Open, then rebounded to win at Augusta National 8 ½ months later.

He has dealt with crises before and figured out a way to overcome them. Ranked third in the world in mid-2008, Scott had become a forgotten man just a year later, and then rebuilt his career largely because he committed to the long putter. The question isn’t what he’ll do in two weeks, but what he’ll do in 2016.

Scott hasn’t finished among the PGA Tour’s top 100 putters since 2007. Some of the rankings during that stretch have been ghastly: 178th in ’08, 180th in ’09, 186th in 2010. The numbers have gotten a little better since, but as top-tier players go, Scott has been giving back at least three strokes per week to his primary competition for a long time.

Here’s the funny thing – Scott led the Tour in putting in 2004, his second full season. He slipped to 102nd the following year and has never really recovered. Because he drives the ball so effectively, he has continued to win tournaments and gradually ascend to a spot among the elite, but he’s still the worst putter on anyone’s list of the game’s 10 best players.

“I read the greens poorly, I must say,” Scott said of Bay Hill. “You need confidence in that, too, and after missing a couple, doubt starts to creep into your reads. You need to be certain, and I just wasn’t 100 percent on.”

Hey Adam, that caddie of yours has seen a few putts holed at Bay Hill over the years. It wouldn’t be the dumbest thing ever if you called in Steve Williams for a look.

SOMETHING HAD TO be done. Not because the World Golf Hall of Fame is a bad idea or poorly operated, but because the induction process was flawed. At some point soon – some might tell you it happened five years ago – golf was simply going to run out of worthy candidates, which could have led to compromised standards and other credibility issues.

So change was needed, and change has occurred, with commissioner Tim Finchem revealing the alterations this past weekend. The biggest is that the induction ceremony will now be a biennial event, which alleviates the aforementioned problem, although it stands to reason that you didn’t have to enshrine someone just because you had a big party scheduled.

The idea of a 16-person Selection Sub-Committee also makes sense. When you send out a bunch of ballots in the mail and let grandma in on the voting process, strange things are bound to happen. The new eligibility requirements are also a good idea, although I’m a trifle disappointed the minimum age of 40 wasn’t raised by at least 10 years.

I’m not a fan of active, highly visible tour pros going into the Hall when they’ve still got a lot of golf left. That said, this was a big step forward for the WGHOF overall. You can’t measure the effect these changes will have on the product, but if perception is 90 percent of reality, this was a 90-percent success.