Pop quiz: At the 2008 U.S. Open, the USGA paired the top three players from the Official World Golf Rankings together for the first two rounds. Who were they?
With all of the recent talk about the new "Big Three" being Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, how is it we're just starting to turn our attention to a former world No. 1 who has already made a compelling argument for Comeback Player of the Year, if they still had one?
How is it that someone whom we see as being blessed with so many appealing qualities has had to be so resilient?
If you were to design what the perfect golfer looks like, you would probably sketch out Adam Scott. Tall, strong, athletic. But the most important part of the total package is about what we don't see on the outside. It is what is defined as resiliency.
This is an athlete who for the first year since turning professional in 2000, went winless in 2015. For many, Scott had stopped being part of the current golf conversation. A guy who spent 11 weeks as the best player in the world less than two years ago was an afterthought to many. He was a guy, because of a worldwide rules change, that was being forced to adopt a new method of play that many said would end his career.
That epitaph was just a bit premature to say the least.
The resiliency of Scott isn't just about the short term of the past two weeks, during which he won the Honda Classic despite making a quadruple-bogey late in the third round and two double-bogeys in the final round of his victory at Doral. It is about the longer term. It is about a player needing a captain's pick by fellow Aussie Greg Norman just to make the 2009 Presidents Cup team for the International side. It is about making a major coaching change that same year and bottoming out as the 76th-ranked player in the world. It is about switching putting methods to the broomstick and becoming a major champion and then having to completely reevaluate and change putting methods again.
Being the best at anything is difficult, but rebuilding that ascendancy after the pieces have crumbled is even more difficult.
I was there in 1996 after having been the best player in the world in 1992. Bit by bit, it all fell apart both personally and professionally.
The bottom came for me at the U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles. With a coaching change that was not working and a new set of clubs that was a poor fit (as I tried to keep a long running manufacturing relationship intact), I missed the cut convincingly. I remember walking down the 17th hole on Friday realizing that not only was I going to miss the cut in the championship that meant the most to me, I didn't even have a way to get home, a four-hour drive away.
I had to wait overnight for my mom to come pick me and my dog up, but in the meantime, the resilience started to kick in and the pieces of the puzzle reassembled. The clubs were ditched as soon as I got home; a tried-and-true set put back in the bag. I then withdrew from the next two events, went back to my previous teacher, looked at old films and old photos and then returned to the range for two-a-day sessions. Blisters and Band-Aids galore.
Late afternoons were spent playing alone, back to my favorite times as a kid when it was just me and the game, trying figure out how to get the ball in the hole as fast as possible -- and then doing it all over again.
It was about reevaluating a plan for the rest of the season, remembering how much I just loved to play, compete and win. It was about getting back to the basics of what makes you tick. When I went back on tour, I won the next two events and four in total by the early fall. It wasn't about what my ball-striking, sand save or putting numbers said, it was about resiliency, about a plan and about having the belief to put it in motion.
Adam's Scott's stats might tell you that he leads the tour in ball-striking. He's jumped 115 spots in the putting rankings, but sits 136th in sand saves. What those numbers can't tell you is the clarity and freedom that comes from family sit-downs, mapping out a plan and a peaceful mind in the midst of the chaos that is just part of being a professional athlete. It's about digging deep, about doing what you love and appreciating it.
Let's take time to appreciate Adam's Scott career in total -- even if we continue to have the current "Big Three" or "Big Four" conversations -- because this comeback and the resiliency he has shown is truly big time.