Scott moving on from anchored stroke just fine

By Rex HoggardDecember 3, 2015, 10:18 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – This week’s Hero World Challenge is a home game for Adam Scott.

He was one of the first PGA Tour types to migrate to this island enclave, but it’s his spot on assorted leaderboards the last few months that is starting to feel like the friendly confines again for the Australian.

By his own admission, 2015 was a year of “transition” for the 35-year-old. He managed just three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, failed to win anywhere in the world and slipped to 16th in the World Ranking.

Most will point to Scott’s putting, and the looming ban on anchoring next month, as the source of his swoon, but his troubles went deeper than that much-maligned broom-handled putter.

In fact, he only half-jokes that he should have made the switch to a traditional-length putter long before October, and the statistics suggest he’s correct.

Scott ranked 158th in strokes gained-putting in 2015 – his lowest position in that category since 2010 just before he switched to the anchored putter – and was 183rd on Tour in three-putt avoidance.

“I think the focus on putting is probably the least impactful thing,” said Scott following his opening 67 at the Hero World Challenge left him one stroke off the lead. “I putted so poorly this year with the long putter, I wish I had transitioned to the short putter earlier.”

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But Scott’s play, at least in the near future, will be analyzed by his performance on the putting surfaces after he became the first player to win the Masters using an anchored putter.

Whether it’s deserved or not, Scott became the poster child when the ruling bodies made their move on anchoring in many minds, and as the deadline has inched closer the focus has been squarely on Scott.

So much so he made news when he arrived at the Presidents Cup in October with a traditional-length model, and even more headlines when he struggled in his early matches in South Korea.

Since those matches, however, that liability has become a luxury with Scott’s results since the transition trending in all the right directions.

He finished tied for seventh the week after the Presidents Cup at the Japan Open, runner-up at the CIMB Classic, fifth at the Australian Masters and tied for second place last week at the Australian Open.

The momentum continued on Thursday at Albany, where he spends his time when he’s not on Tour, with a quick start that included an eagle at the par-5 third hole.

Slowed by sloppy bogeys at the fourth and 13th holes, Scott finished his round with a birdie at No. 18 for a 67, which was two strokes off the course record which was set by Scott when Albany was, by most accounts, much harder.

“I think the course has been softened a lot,” Scott said. “I mean they made some changes with this event in mind over the last 12, 18 months I guess to the greens specifically. The course is playing very soft this week, so I think that record probably is going to be gone soon.”

Considering Thursday’s scoring, with three players – Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson and Paul Casey – grabbing a share of the lead at 6-under 66, Scott’s record is certainly in jeopardy, but his career – which some thought might be perched on a non-anchored abyss – has been rejuvenated.

His improved play on the greens has fueled improvements in other parts of his game, specifically his ball striking, which has always been the standard on Tour but has suffered in recent years.

“I haven't had the consistency with my striking this year because it's kind of one of those things where when your putting suffers, eventually it catches up with your ball striking,” he said.

“I had been a bit inconsistent with that this year, but I think the better putting over the last couple months has helped make that happen so I feel like I'm getting back into that kind of top rhythm you have when you're playing well.”

The goal is to finish the season with a victory and this week’s stop is his final chance, but even without a trophy on Sunday his “transition” year will end on a positive note.

It was by any measure an eventful year for Scott, who switched caddies, tinkered with his driver, became a father and, yes, ditched the anchored putting stroke for good.

Asked on Thursday if he’s tired of being asked about his putter, Scott – normally one of the more reserved interviews in the game – left no room for ambiguity.

“Yep, absolutely,” he said. “It's really not that big of a deal, and I'm portrayed as a poor putter, but I think that's a bit of a misconception. Yes, I putted poorly this year, but it's very hard to do well when putting as poorly as people might think.”

There will undoubtedly be more questions about his putting in 2016, but Scott is answering those doubts the only way he can – one top-10 finish at a time.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”