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Friday, May 30, 2014
Updated: May 31, 3:10 AM ET
Scott making the most of being No. 1

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

DUBLIN, Ohio -- The various permutations and calculations that make up the maddening Official World Golf Ranking are a source of frustration to many, as is the quest for No. 1.

Adam Scott
Adam Scott posted five birdies and three bogeys for a 2-under-par 70 on Friday at the Memorial Tournament. His career-best finish at the event hosted by Jack Nicklaus is T-4 in 2006.

Adam Scott finally wrestled that distinction from Tiger Woods a little more than a week ago, although it was hardly a fair fight. Woods was sitting at home, recovering from back surgery. Scott, actually, was sitting at home, too, the numbers inevitably falling in his favor.

Woods never looked like the No. 1 player this year, struggling through four tournaments before injury halted his season. But the rankings were still rewarding him for his strong play in 2013, when he won five times.

Scott, however, had won three times worldwide since Woods' last victory, and had several openings to take over the No. 1 spot, most notably at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he had a 7-stroke lead through 36 holes and failed to win.

Chances to overtake Woods came at the Masters and again at the Players Championship, with Scott having to settle for honor without winning -- or even playing.

That might seem a bit dubious, and the quest for No. 1 overstated. The rankings have a very practical use, as each of the four major championships now use the system to help determine their fields.

But No. 1? You still might be able to argue it, although Scott's victory Sunday at the Colonial went a long way toward backing up the claim. And given how few players have ever been there, he is enjoying the view.

"I certainly enjoyed the last two weeks very much," said Scott, who celebrated the occasion with friends when he officially took over the top spot. "Have to work hard again this weekend to try and stay there another week.

"It certainly is a nice feeling to have gotten there, stay there. I'm trying to do it as long as I can."

Scott will stay there for at least another week, regardless of how he performs at the Memorial, where he shot 2-under-par 70 on Friday to settle into a tie for 10th, although he is 7 strokes behind leader Paul Casey.

And given where he came from, Scott is more than happy to be there.

Trying to get to No. 1 has been a huge struggle during the era of Woods, given his stranglehold on the top spot for most of the past 17 years. And then there were Scott's own troubles. He had fallen outside of the top 60 in late 2009 and was still outside the top 20 in early 2011, when he made the somewhat desperate switch to a long putter.

It was around that time that Scott began to retool his schedule to be better suited to the big events. Now he's won a Masters and had the best record in the major championships during the past two years. And he owns the longest streak on the PGA Tour of consecutive cuts made at 35.

"It's been a lot of work over the last couple of years to play this consistent," Scott said. "It was a couple years' work to bring my game to the level where I really wanted it in the big events. And then to maintain it there, you've got to continue to have that drive.

"And I've said it for a couple of years. This is my window of opportunity, and I don't know how long that will be. So I'm going to try to make the most of it while I'm there.

"It's just been a lot of hours at home constantly trying to improve and trying to be smart about it, so it's not as hard as it really is."

The top of the rankings are volatile. Five players this week -- Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day -- all have the opportunity to jump up into the No. 2 spot.

And then the game will be on again.

The subject might seem monotonous, even inconsequential to some. But the formula puts Scott on top, and he'd like to stay there.

"When you're a kid dreaming of being No. 1 and you're out on tour when you're 19, 20, you think you're going to roll into it; and it's not really the case all the time," said Scott, 33. "It does happen for some, but it wasn't the case for me. And a lot's gone into it. I felt I was No. 1 by such a small margin last week, it was just motivation to stay there for another week.

"It's going to take continued hard work and determination to stay there. We'll see how it goes. But it certainly was a fun experience last week to be No. 1, and then obviously to win the tournament will make it a pretty sweet memory for my career."