Scott's Masters win popular the golf world over

By Jay CoffinApril 15, 2013, 12:56 pm

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.

Many rules went out the window Sunday when Adam Scott won the Masters.

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.

'Morning Drive': Norman discusses Scott's win and impact on Australia

77th Masters Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

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.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”