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Will Adam Scott ever be free of the 'anchorer' stigma?

For all the questions about Adam Scott's new putting stroke, he ranked 15th in the key strokes gained putting statistic at the Northern Trust Open. Robert Laberge/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- It ain't easy being Adam Scott.

I mean, sure, there's the millions of dollars in his bank account. And the beautiful home in the Bahamas. And the idyllic golf swing. And the green jacket. And the swooning fans. And the ...

Wait, where was I again? Oh, right. It ain't easy being Scott.

This is less about the fame or the riches or the accolades than a very small part of the game that he has been forced to change in recent months.

You see, Scott was an anchorer. In golf circles, these words are often uttered with the same disdain once reserved for those believed to be practicing witchcraft in Salem.

Explain anchoring to a non-golfer and they're likely to produce such an impassioned shrug that their shoulders won't return to default status for minutes.

For golfers, though, the anchoring ban enacted at the beginning of this year has been among the hottest of hot-button issues -- and Scott's pursuit of success in the aftermath remains the subject of debate, no matter how close he comes to reaching another pinnacle.

That's because every final result for Scott is now viewed through the prism of putting.

On Sunday, he posted a final-round 4-under 67 at the Northern Trust Open, finishing in a share of second place, just a single stroke shy of Bubba Watson. For the week, Scott posted one eagle and 21 birdies, ranking third in the field; his strokes gained putting statistic was nearly 5 shots better than the average, ranking 15th.

Still, there were those who contended that having to employ a non-anchored putting stroke negatively affected him. That if he were still allowed to hold the butt end of his putter against his sternum, he would've won this week.

That, of course, is purely hypothetical.

But when I asked Scott after the final round whether he feels as if he needs a victory to validate his talent on the greens, he countered by making an excellent point.

"Yeah, I missed a couple today," he said. "I'm sure heaps of people missed a couple today. Just they all seem so much more important on the back nine, and every putt is the same, but I made so many great strokes and putts this week."

He's right. He's right about all of it.

There wasn't a player in the field who was immune to a few poor putts on the devilish poa annua surfaces at Riviera Country Club. To blame Scott's misses on a different putting style is to ignore every other competitor who missed putts using the same method they've had for years.

Of course, that doesn't stop such criticism from taking place, nor does it stop that criticism from sounding illogical.

All of which brings up a pertinent question: When will Scott finally be freed from the stigma of ex-anchorer, his pursuit of success judged on a level playing field with the game's other elite performers?

If it didn't happen with his second-place finish Sunday, perhaps it will when -- not if, but when -- he wins again. For some, though, winning only one event won't be enough. They'll want to see him win consistently. They'll want to see him win majors. Then, grudgingly, they'll concede that, yes, he actually can putt pretty well this way.

It reminds me of the same stigma that Tiger Woods faced from the public when he returned from scandal and injury. Observers wanted to judge when he'd be officially "back." Some maintained that it would come with a few title contentions, others said it would only happen with a victory, and still others insisted he wouldn't be "back" until he dominated at major championships again.

For his part, anytime he was asked about being "back," Woods simply shrugged and said he didn't know what that even meant.

It feels as if Scott views the current debate around his putting with similar indifference.

The rest of the world can deliberate how much the anchoring ban is affecting him and whether he'll continue to be the same player going forward.

As for Scott, he'll just keep rolling putts the only way he's allowed these days, all of that outer noise hardly causing a sound.

Just as he did this week, he'll make plenty of putts going forward. He'll miss plenty of them, too. That's the way golf works -- anchoring or not.

"I feel like it's all in a really good spot," he said of his putting stroke.

He doesn't seem bothered by those hypotheticals about it, which is probably the first step to improving.

It also means it might be pretty easy to be Adam Scott after all.