Commentary

Scott seeking major breakthrough

Updated: July 22, 2012, 1:43 AM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Adam Scott makes women forget their first and last names. They swoon in his presence. Even George Clooney asks him for handsome lessons.

Think I'm kidding? After his second round, an Open Championship official asked reporters in the media center, "Can we have a show of hands for those who'd like Adam Scott brought to here?"

Dozens of sports writers raised their hands. It was a no-brainer; Scott would enter Saturday just 1 shot out of the lead.

But at the front of the room were three female scoreboard operators. And they all had their hands up. One of the workers had both hands in the air.

"Was that wrong to do?" she said later.

Nah. She wasn't the only woman who fell head over heels for him. St. Annes -- as in Royal Lytham & St. Annes -- is nuts about him, too. And the feeling is mutual.

Scott is on the verge of turning this Open Championship into a one-man play. There's Scott at 11-under. And then there's everyone else.

[+] EnlargeAdam Scott
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports/US PresswireIf Adam Scott is able to hold on to his 4-shot lead and win the Open Championship on Sunday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, he would be the 10th straight first-time major winner.

Four shots separate Scott from second-place Brandt Snedeker and Graeme McDowell. And 18 holes separate the 32-year-old Australian from winning his first major and fulfilling the vast expectations placed on him since turning pro in 2000.

For the moment, this Open belongs to Scott. But it's Saturday, not Sunday.

"He's got the unfortunate burden of never having won a major championship," said McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open after beginning the final round at Pebble Beach 3 shots behind leader Dustin Johnson. McDowell added later: "He's going to be the guy who's going to sleep on the lead tonight. He's going to be the guy with all the pressure."

Sleep isn't going to be a problem. Scott and his pillow get along just fine. He's the king of Z's.

"You can ask anyone who knows me that I can put in some hours," Scott said.

But there might be something to this pressure thing. Scott has won tournaments -- a combined 16 on both tours -- but he has never won a major. Until this week, he had never led a major after a round. And he has exactly one top-10 finish in 12 previous Open Championships.

"I don't know what to expect [Sunday]," Scott said. "I've not really teed off in the last group of the Open before. I'm sure I'm going to be nervous, but it's good nerves and I'm excited."

Scott, ranked 12th in the world, has almost everything: the movie star beard stubble, the elegant clothes and one of the most beautiful, technically perfect swings on the planet. But for a checklist of reasons, he doesn't have a major championship.

Let's see, he couldn't putt.

He was inconsistent.

He wasn't a closer.

"He was almost the world No. 1 a couple of years ago," said his good friend Ernie Els, who is 6 shots out of the lead. "His game left him a bit then. But he seems like he really dedicated himself to the game then. He's got all the talent in the world."

So last year he ditched the conventional putter for the belly putter. It looks like he's holding a bunker rake when he putts, but it works for him.

He hired Steve Williams, who was on Tiger Woods' bag for 13 of his 14 majors.

He configured his playing schedule so everything was built toward majors. Fewer tournaments but more focus on the four biggies.

And here Scott is, on the brink of doing what everyone predicted would do years ago: win a major.

"I don't even really want to think about it right now," said Scott, who finished T-8 at the Masters in April and T-15 at the recent U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.

He said he was nervous walking to the first tee Saturday. On Sunday multiply that by, what, 10 ... 20 ... 100?

Majors are majors because they cause hearts to remind themselves to beat. They make throats dry and hands shake.

Four of the six players within 6 strokes of Scott -- McDowell, Woods, Els and Zach Johnson -- have won majors. The closest Scott has come to one is a T-2 in the 2011 Masters.

"Well, a 4-shot lead doesn't seem to be very much this year on any golf tournament that I've watched," Scott said. "That doesn't mean a lot. The good part is if I play a solid round of golf, it will be very hard for the others to beat me. And that's all I'm thinking about."

Four shots is a nice thing to have in your back pocket heading into the final round. But he's right, nobody is engraving his name on the Claret Jug just yet.

"I just need to do all the same stuff I've been doing that's been effective," he said. "And it shouldn't really change just because it's Sunday."

Really? Adam, I'd like you to meet Sunday at the Open Championship. It's the one with really long claws.

If Els can't win it, he'll be rooting for Scott. Lots of people will, including three media center scoreboard operators.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter