In the April gloom Adam Scott unleashed a primal roar that was some 80 years in the making – “C’mon Aussie,” he roared into the approaching darkness.
Nine months removed from a meltdown at the 2012 Open Championship that some figured the 33-year-old might never recover from, Scott birdied three of Augusta National’s last six holes on Sunday to force overtime against Angel Cabrera and beat the Argentine with a birdie at the second playoff frame.
Had that been the end of Scott’s 2013 tale his status as one of the year’s top stories would have been undeniable, a real-time climb from torment to triumph. But the soft-spoken star with leading-man looks and a textbook golf swing was far from finished.
In fact, before Scott clipped Cabrera to become the first Australian to slip into the green jacket, he’d already made a surprising mark on the game.
In January, Scott joined Tim Clark at Torrey Pines to take a stand against the USGA and Royal & Ancient’s proposed ban on anchoring. It was out of character for both players, particularly Scott, who began using a long putter in 2011, and their arguments against the ban helped shape a debate that threatened to shred the tender fabric that ties golf’s rule-makers.
“It’s a good time to speak up and make people understand why we feel so passionate about this and why it affects not only us but thousands of golfers around the world,” Scott said during a Golf Channel interview in March.
“If they came out and said they were going to ban the short putter, I see no difference in that. How would a person who uses a short putter feel? Neither style of putting has been against the rules. It’s unfair to change the rules mid-round.”
Golf’s rule-makers went ahead with the ban but not before allowing that the rule-making process going forward would be more inclusive, a nod to a growing number of PGA Tour types who said it may be time for two sets of rules.
Along the way Scott added a FedEx Cup playoff victory at The Barclays, climbed to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking and anchored an International Presidents Cup team that is closer to relevance than many observers realize despite another loss at Muirfield Village.
But it was back home in Australia where Scott made his most significant impact.
In November he began his homecoming tour at the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast, where he grew up. Scott trotted out the green jacket at every turn because “it doesn’t get seen too much down here,” he smiled. On Friday at the Australian PGA he began to understand the full measure of his Masters victory when officials held a “green day” for the fans.
“I expected to see some fans in green, but to have so many players wearing green as well ... it was very humbling,” Scott said.
He won the Australian PGA by four strokes to secure the career Australian Slam, with victories in his country’s Open, Masters and now PGA. A week later at Royal Melbourne he added more fuel to the frenzy with his second consecutive Australian Masters triumph and, for good measure, teamed with Jason Day to claim the World Cup a week later on the sand-belt gem.
The homecoming was only slightly marred when Scott was outdueled by Rory McIlroy at the Australian Open in Sydney, but that miscue did nothing to diminish his impact on the Australian psyche.
The country had been waiting for an heir to Greg Norman, a player who could transcend golf with his play and his personality. Early in his career, Scott had been dubbed the “Baby Shark” by then-swing coach Butch Harmon.
“They used to call me that when I was a kid when I first went to them because I carried on about Greg so much, but it didn’t stick,” Scott said.
Perhaps it was best that moniker didn’t take considering the depth of his success in 2013. Some suggested during Scott’s victory tour that he’d eclipsed his hero in the public consciousness as evidenced by the crowds that greeted him at every turn and golf’s new status on the front page.
In signature Scott fashion, he dismissed that idea, opting instead for a humility that was neither forced nor false.
“With Norman, I felt he was larger than life and I don’t feel like that’s what I’m doing, but I did enjoy seeing so many kids out there,” Scott said at Royal Melbourne. “Hopefully I can help the next bunch of guys come along.”
All victories and defeats are personal, but Scott’s triumph at the Masters was shared by the Australian collective and, when fully examined, appears greater than the sum of its parts. From his letdown at Lytham St. Annes in 2012 to the elation of ending an entire nation’s Masters nightmare, the full measure of Scott’s 2013 promises to transcend golf and the calendar.
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