Change is good for Scott at Firestone
AKRON, Ohio -- Poor Adam Scott. After being unable to build on his lead at Firestone on Friday, there waited the guys in lab coats, about to tap him on the shoulder as part of the tour's random drug-testing program.
But first, Scott would face a few inquisitors. So he loaded up on the bottled water, hoping to make the latter appointment go a bit smoother.
Inevitably, the questions came about his new caddie, and Scott being a nice guy, patiently answered them, again -- even though this topic is sure to get old.
Of course, when anything is even remotely related to Tiger Woods, the subject is going to have more shelf life, and Scott's seemingly innocent request to ask Steve Williams to caddie for him at the U.S. Open has turned into the game's ultimate mini-drama.
You can argue the value of a caddie, but it says something about Williams' worth that he was on Woods' bag for so long, and that Scott was so stoked to get him.
"To have him come on with his confidence and belief in my ability, absolutely, it's another little jolt that inspires you to work a little harder," Scott said.
Several noted the irony -- or was it a coincidence? -- that on the day Woods returned to competitive golf after a three-month absence, Scott shot 62 at Firestone Country Club to grab the lead at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He remained at the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes, tied with Rickie Fowler, Ryan Moore and Keegan Bradley at 8-under.
This is a tournament Woods dominated, winning seven times with Williams alongside. Scott couldn't resist a quip after his opening 62.
"He just seems to have a lot of good rounds in him around this place, that's for sure," Scott said. "He didn't think it was a big deal to shoot 62. It was normal."
Then again, Williams was here for the 74-72-75-77 effort put forth by Woods a year ago, proving that it's not always about the caddie.
The player ultimately makes the final decisions, hits the shots, holes the putts. But it is clear a caddie can make a difference, and that is why Scott will continue to be queried.
Woods' parting ways with Williams was a big deal because they won 63 times together on the PGA Tour, including 13 major titles. If it didn't matter, then Woods might have changed caddies like golf gloves. Instead, he kept Williams around longer than the trusty putter Woods used to win some $60 million -- one that happens to be back in the bag this week.
Follow On Twitter
Want great insight into the game of golf in 140 characters or fewer? Follow @BobHarig.
That they split after Woods seemingly got irritated because Williams expressed interest in filling in while Scott looked for a permanent caddie only added to the intrigue.
Scott, an Australian, got to know Williams, who is from New Zealand, when both he and Woods worked with instructor Butch Harmon. They would see each other on tour and became friends. Scott saw no harm in asking for Williams' help while the caddie's boss was on the mend because of injuries. He said numerous times he fully expected Williams to head back to Woods' bag upon his return.
But for reasons that apparently go beyond moonlighting, Woods told Williams last month at the AT&T National that his services would no longer be needed. Williams asked that the news be kept quiet until after the British Open, so as not to be a distraction to his new player.
So that part is coming now.
"I had no idea that it was going down like that," Scott said. "I haven't seen [Woods] yet. I don't think it should be awkward. I mean, this kind of thing happens on tour. It happens a lot every year with everyone, and just because it's Tiger and Steve, I'm not going to treat it like it's anything different than anyone else going through this.
"I hope it's not going to be awkward. I don't have a problem, but if he has a problem, then he can definitely tell me."
There is no indication there is any problem for Woods, but what is his loss is Scott's gain -- even if it is just the added boost of having someone new.
"The obvious stuff is the years of experience," Scott said Williams' influence. "But whenever you make a change in caddie or coach, there's certainly a bit of enthusiasm and a bit of motivation. He's a very positive guy. He's very confident in the way he caddies, and I think that's good for me. Keep myself confident out there and be aggressive, because that's the way I play my best golf. So I think we seem to be a pretty good match."
Bob Harig's mailbag
Who will get off to a fast start to the 2012 PGA Tour season? Should the tour change how it opens the season? Drop ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig a line, and he'll respond to some of the best questions. Ask Harig a question
So is Scott with the long putter, the true reason for a mini-resurgence this year that saw him finish second at the Masters.
Long considered an up-and-coming star, Scott, 31, has seven PGA Tour victories and another 10 international titles, but he has come up short in the major championships and has had long dry spells due to his mediocre work on the greens.
"Everyone knows I had a tough couple of years and was very frustrated on the golf course," Scott said. "Even last year, I played so well, but I putted so poorly. It was so frustrating for me to play like that all year."
Scott didn't see as many putts drop on Friday, but he didn't seem too concerned. It's always tough to follow up such a low round as he shot on Thursday, and 70 around Firestone is still solid.
And if he needed to be reminded of it, well, there was the guy with 120-something victories on his caddie résumé to make it clear.
"He thinks I'm playing well, he just wants me to get going, wants to get me playing like this more often," Scott said. "He's been very honest with me, what he thinks of my game. It's been a fortunate situation for me, and I'd like to take advantage of that."
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
MORE GOLF HEADLINES
- Johnson holes out on 18, then beats Tiger
- Jimenez, 49, repeats as Hong Kong champ
- Bjorn rallies with 65 to win in South Africa
- New Zealand's Ko, 16, wins first title as pro