No regrets

By Randall MellAugust 23, 2011, 3:49 pm

RINGOES, N.J. – Steve Scott will be paying attention from afar to the drama that unfolds with the U.S. Amateur underway this week at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

Fifteen years ago, Scott found himself amid one of the most dramatic finals in the history of the championship.

Despite all the time that’s passed, Scott says hardly a day goes by that he isn’t asked about his duel with Tiger Woods, about how Woods beat him in a sudden-death playoff to claim a record third consecutive U.S. Amateur title at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore.

“Just about every day, somebody brings it up, or wants to know about it,” Scott said during an interview in the clubhouse at The Ridge at Back Brook, where he is the head professional. “I relive it almost every day.”

If you’re wondering if the questions come as painful jabs, as annoying reminders that he lost that historic battle, you’re wrong. Scott says he’s grateful he’s remembered for his part in history. There’s proof in his office at the club. There are reminders all over his walls, photographs from that epic Sunday.

There’s one large photo Scott had blown up, with Scott hitting a tee shot at the 12th hole and Woods watching. It’s signed by Woods.

“Hi Steve,” Woods wrote. “Nice shot. Best wishes, Tiger Woods.”

Scott was 5 up that day, but he lost the match after it was extended to extra holes (38 holes).

“People wonder if I get tired of being asked about it,” Scott said. “It’s far from a sore subject. It was a great day for me. What happened in the U.S. Amateur finals set so many things in motion in my life. It opened so many doors.

“I’m linked to a great moment in golf history. I don’t shy away from it. I’m not haunted by it. I’ve learned to appreciate what it’s given me.”

Scott, who grew up in Coral Springs, Fla., made the Walker Cup and qualified for the Masters, where he played a practice round with Jack Nicklaus. But he's not remembered for those moments.

One of the questions Scott gets asked most about in that epic match is what happened at the 16th hole near the end of regulation. If not for Scott’s act of sportsmanship there, he might be remembered today as the U.S. Amateur champion. Woods had forgotten to replace his mark after moving it out of Scott's putting line, and Woods was preparing to putt when Scott reminded him. If Woods had played the shot incorrectly, Scott would have won the match 3 and 2.

Scott, 34, is frequently asked if he regrets speaking up.

“I will always be glad I told him to do that,” Scott said. “It would have been the wrong way to win. It was a total reflex. I guess my parents raised me the right way.”

There’s another question Scott hears a lot.

“People ask, `Whatever happened to that hot blonde who caddied for you that day?’” Scott said. “I tell them I married her.”

Formerly Kristi Hommel, she’s now Steve’s wife. The couple has two children, J.C., a 3-year-old boy, and Kaylie, an 8-month-old girl.

“Kristi’s a great partner,” Scott said. “She understands what I do. Right now, we’re just trying to get some sleep and figure out this parenting thing.”

Scott gave up the tour pro’s life in ’05. He enrolled at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and got the degree in communications he didn’t finish at the University of Florida, where he was an All-American for four years. He also enrolled in the PGA of America’s certification program to begin a new life as a club professional.

After leaving Florida, Scott turned pro, but his game didn’t blossom the way he imagined it would. In six tries at PGA Tour Qualifying School, he made it to the finals once, tying for 128th. He excelled on the Canadian Tour, winning twice, and played the Nationwide Tour, but he grew weary of the struggles on developmental circuits.

“It gets tiring playing mini-tours and not making much money,” Scott said. “I got to where I just didn’t have the passion for it anymore. I hated the travel.”

Scott said his ball striking put too much pressure on his short game.

“I saw so many guys, 35 and 40 years old, playing the Golden Bear Tour,” he said. “I didn’t want to be that guy. I wanted something different. I know golf, I love golf, and I’m a people person. I’m lucky to be at a club like The Ridge and be in the situation I’m in. I didn’t want to be a struggling mini-tour pro. I didn’t want to do that to my family.”

Kristi played golf and was a teacher. She knows the game. She understood Steve’s struggle.

“I really admired him for taking a long, hard look at life,' Kristi said. 'It was a tough decision for Steve, but he realized he didn't just have himself to think about, that he had a wife and that he wanted to create some stability for a family. I think [becoming a club pro] was one of the most courageous decisions he's made. There’s a balance in our life now, and Steve’s happier.”

Scott was working with Hall of Fame teacher Bob Toski in south Florida a decade ago, and he said Toski’s enthusiasm for teaching influenced him.

“His passion’s infectious,” Scott said. “I decided to take the fire and tenacity I had for competition and put it into my new career. I told myself I was going to be the best club professional I could be. I want to be a great club pro.”

At the U.S.Open in ’96, Scott was paired with Bob Ford, the popular head professional at both the prestigious Oakmont and Seminole clubs. They struck up a friendship. Ford became a mentor.

After a couple jobs as an assistant professional, Scott landed a job working for Joel Moore at The Ridge at Back Brook, a gorgeous test of skill in the rolling hills between Princeton and Flemington in New Jersey. Scott says they’re in discussions with the PGA Tour over the possibility of bringing a Champions Tour event there.

“Being a club professional is a good life,” Scott said. “I never thought I would enjoy it so much.”

Scott sees replays of his match with Woods on Golf Channel now and then, and it sparks an old competitive flame. Though he plays club professional events, he doesn’t have the same focus on competition.

What’s he remember most about the match?

“I remember being nervous but still playing great golf,” Scott said. “I remember Tiger Woods flying a bunker 290 yards away on the first playoff hole, a bunker I couldn’t dream of flying. I remember the sound of his ball off the clubface. I remember it sounding like a gunshot. I also remember making nine birdies.”

Scott hears what other folks remember from that day, and sometimes it makes him laugh.

“I had one guy ask me, ‘Hey aren’t you that guy who beat Tiger Woods in the U.S. Amateur?’” Scott said.

Scott would have relished winning, but being part of history is more than consolation.

“I beat a lot of good players out-preparing them,” Scott said. “I’m proud of what I accomplished.”

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."