Scott Has All the Right Stuff
Everyone has talked about the similarities in their swings for the last couple of years. There are whispers now that Woods might do well to copy the 23-year-old Australian.
Woods is engaged to a Swedish model. Scott's girlfriend is Swedish.
A few years ago, Scott briefly hired the younger brother of Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, to be his caddie.
Most notably, they had the same swing coach - Butch Harmon - during their developmental years on tour. Scott first hooked up with Harmon when he played at UNLV, while Woods worked with Harmon for a dozen years before parting ways last season.
'When he first came to see Butch, I saw the tapes,' Woods said. 'I mean, it looked just like me. The only difference is he's a little bit taller than I am, so obviously he's got a little more width than I do.
'Other than that, it looks very similar.'
But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is best illustrated in the way Scott plays with the lead.
His victory Sunday at The Players Championship was not exactly a page from Woods' textbook, bringing unnecessary drama to the 18th hole by hitting a 6-iron into the water with a two-shot lead. But there is no denying the result.
Scott is now 6-1 worldwide with at least a share of the lead going into the final round. His scoring average in those seven events is 68.14.
Throw out one swing at Sawgrass, and it was a command performance - birdies early in the round to build his lead, a clutch short game to save par when Padraig Harrington had posted his round of 66 to get within two shots, and the nervy 10-footer to save bogey and avoid the playoff on the 18th.
Scott closed with a 70 and became the youngest winner of golf's fifth major.
It was only his second PGA Tour victory, although both were strong tournaments. The other was the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston in September. Scott pulled away with a 66, while Woods, Darren Clarke and Vijay Singh were among those who finished in the top 10.
The Players Championship is not an ordinary PGA Tour event.
'It's a great start for the year, and it's a big step for me,' Scott said.
Woods has had more rivalries than there are majors - Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Davis Love III, Singh and even Sergio Garcia have been mentioned.
Singh remains Woods' biggest rival at the moment, for no other reason than he is No. 2 in the world, although Els and Mickelson are closing fast.
Scott might not be too far behind, and he shot to the top of the list among players younger than Woods.
Garcia, 24, has won three times on the PGA Tour, and seriously challenged Woods at the '99 PGA Championship when the Spanish star was only 19. Aaron Baddeley, 23, has three victories in Australia and has a fearless stroke with the putter, although he hasn't done anything to merit serious consideration.
Charles Howell III, 24, has one PGA Tour victory and has finished inside the top 15 on the money list his first two seasons, although he is struggling now.
Scott won a major test on the TPC at Sawgrass, and that should not be taken lightly.
'I think people around him have seen his talent level sooner than he even knew himself,' Mickelson said. 'We've been talking among players for a number of years now about what a talent this guy is, and how good he's going to be. And to have his first win on tour be only last year was a surprise to everyone.
'We're going to start seeing him contend week in and week out in the biggest tournaments.'
Even stronger praise came from Greg Norman, the Australian icon and Scott's idol.
'He's technically better than Tiger Woods was at 23,' Norman said. 'He needs a bit of confidence, a couple of victories under his belt, and he can be doing what Tiger has done in the last three, four, five years.
'He can eclipse all of us, I guess.'
In some respects, Scott brings to mind another comparison.
Twenty years ago, Fred Couples was an undeniable talent with a silky swing. He followed his first PGA Tour victory by becoming the youngest winner at The Players Championship.
Scott is about as easygoing as Couples, and he even spoke last week about getting comfortable around players that he grew up watching on television. He barely made a peep while playing practice rounds with Woods at the 2001 British Open and at the 2002 U.S. Open.
'I'd feel more comfortable hanging with those guys if I were to win some more, or win a big event or something like that,' Scott said on the eve of the final round. 'But I definitely see my game improving and getting closer to a level where they are.'
He took a huge step Sunday at Sawgrass.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup
AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.
Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.
“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.
The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.
“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”
The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.
Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go
AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.
There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.
Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.
Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.
“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”
But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.
The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.
That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.
Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.
Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.
“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.
While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.
For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.
“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.
But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.
Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.
They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.
“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”
Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.
“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”
Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.
It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”
Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head
But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.
One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.
It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.
And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.
Hey, whatever works.
Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'
AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.
Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.
The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.
“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”
Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.
“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”