DALLAS – While frustrating and at times disappointing, the last few months haven’t been rock bottom for Adam Scott. Not even close.
That distinction still belongs to a forgetful stretch in 2009, when he had already amassed seven PGA Tour titles but managed to play his way from No. 3 in the world to No. 76 in a matter of months.
“I felt like I couldn’t play golf,” Scott recalled. “I was shooting some horrible scores, and it was really out of control.”
With those memories still fresh, Scott views this latest freefall that he has only recently begun to reverse as a far different animal despite the fact that the one-year anniversary of his last top-10 finish is fast approaching.
“This has been just a lot of average stuff,” he said. “So it hasn’t really felt like it’s horrible, but it doesn’t really get you very far in anything.”
As is the case with most conversation topics, Scott approached this trip down memory lane with an even keel and pleasant disposition. A second-round 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson certainly helped to lift his spirits, but it seems you can count on one hand the number of people who have seen the affable Aussie approach anything close to fiery in terms of on-course emotion.
If Jon Rahm sits at one end of the temperament spectrum, Scott has been holding down the fort on the other side of things for nearly two decades.
Scott has been open and upfront about his most recent decline, one that has dropped him down to No. 65 and brought him to Trinity Forest in large part as an effort to secure a spot in the U.S. Open by cracking the top 60 next week. But his even-handed approach to both birdies and bogeys has roots in a conscious effort to carve out a work-life balance despite a profession that often makes it hard to escape the limelight.
As he approaches his 38th birthday, Scott is not on social media. He got married four years ago in secret and his wife, Marie, maintains a private presence far away from most tournaments. The same can be said of the couple’s two children, who are often talked about but never seen mingling on the edges of competition like so many other Tour offspring.
Scott has homes in the Swiss Alps and the Bahamas, far away from cameras or the reach of Twitter mentions. When he gets away from the game, he well and truly gets away.
“He’s happy in his family life, and that obviously helps,” said Ernie Els, who played a practice round Wednesday with Scott. “He’s been doing the same thing for many, many years. He’s maintained a very balanced schedule, and I think his lifestyle helps.”
It was Scott’s commitment to a work-life balance that contributed in part to his most recent spiral down the rankings. As Marie prepared to give birth to the couple’s second child, Scott played a scant schedule last summer even by his standards. He skipped the Northern Trust after the birth of his son, Byron, but he missed the cut at the Dell Technologies Championship the following week and subsequently questioned his decision to even tee it up. He didn’t play again for nearly two months.
When sprinkled across a busy schedule, top-10s and top-25s can serve as fine window dressing for players looking to maintain their standing in the world rankings. But when they’re the core of a limited run of events, tumbles like Scott’s aren’t that hard to achieve.
The roots of this particular turnaround run even deeper than the past few weeks, as Scott has believed himself to be on even footing with some of the game’s best players for quite a while. That includes last month at the Masters, where he played the first two rounds alongside Rahm and Rory McIlroy.
“My golf didn’t look any different than theirs. Their scores were a couple better than me a day, but it’s very fine lines we’re talking about,” he said. “Wherever I am in the world rankings, the difference between that and the top 10 is fine lines. And there’s 20 guys sitting around me who are fine-lining at the moment.”
But the switch back to a long putter at the Wells Fargo Championship offers a clear line of delineation, and it was a big factor in his T-11 result last week at TPC Sawgrass. With an inability to convert chances magnifying the pressure on other aspects of his game, Scott has found the switch back to be nothing short of liberating as he enters the weekend with a spot at Shinnecock firmly in his sights.
“I just took some of the pressure off, and didn’t try so hard,” Scott said. “Tried not to practice too hard, or practice too good, or swing too good, or be too good a dad, or be too good a husband. Just take some of the pressure off yourself, because expectations are always high.”
Although Scott opts to keep his family life separate from his day job, he admitted that there has been some crossover in recent months. As it turns out, even Masters champs with GQ looks aren’t immune to some of the common strains of parenting.
“Having a second child has definitely changed the dynamic with everything. It’s a lot of workload at home for my wife when I’m not there, and just trying to find our balance has been challenging,” he said. “But I think two months ago, we finally found our groove with it. But it’s tough, you know, with a little baby and everything that goes on. None of it’s bad, but it’s just a stage in your life.”
But as he approaches his 38th birthday, Scott knows quite well the various stages life can present both on and off the course. He has evolved from a can’t-miss prospect to a struggling young gun to a major champion and world No. 1, with plenty of dips and valleys in between.
So faced once more with some adversity, he has opted to put that seasoned perspective to good use as he looks to begin yet another climb.
“I think if I can somehow work my way out of this little average zone that I’ve put myself in, the experience I have is even better than the time I worked my way out of that area before,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got my best golf to play.”