Scott coping with major collapse
AKRON, Ohio -- The Swiss Alps would seem a pretty good place to get away from it all, but Adam Scott did not venture there last week to lick his wounds, drown his sorrows or scream into the mountains in anger.
Few could blame Scott if he wanted to spend the days after his Open Championship collapse in solitude, but the Australian has a home in Switzerland, and it was always the plan to spend a few days there decompressing.
Certainly it was difficult to erase the thoughts of what had occurred at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England, where just 10 days ago Scott had the Claret Jug so firmly within his grasp that tournament organizers had already engraved his name into the medal awarded the winner.
Four consecutive bogeys to close preceded by a final flurry from Ernie Els and Scott was left without the trophy and with a crushing loss at a major championship.
"To be honest, I really just felt a bit shocked and almost numb," Scott said Wednesday at Firestone Country Club, where he will defend his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title. "I certainly didn't beat myself up and have to curl up in a corner.
"It just kind of happened so fast, even looking back on it, how quickly it can slip away. And without doing that much wrong, it was just compounding mistakes. The next few days were quiet, but they were just the same as after any other major. I pretty much find myself on the couch for about 48 hours after a major."
Exhaustion is part of the aftermath for anyone in the hunt at one of golf's biggest tournaments. Els felt it, too, but in a delirious, celebratory way that was far different from the emotions experienced by Scott.
Both come to this World Golf Championship event looking to recapture the form that put them in that position just more than a week ago. Els missed the cut last week at the RBC Canadian Open, while Scott put the clubs away until Thursday, began the practice routine again, even spent a few days at Kiawah Island, S.C., site of next week's PGA Championship.
"It's just nice to be playing straightaway again, get out there," Scott said. "I'm obviously playing well, so I should be confident here and try and build my own confidence and pick up some momentum as we come into a really important stretch of the year."
It didn't hurt that Scott, 32, received considerable support from friends, family and many in the golf community. He had numerous messages, from so many people that "I don't know how they got my number, actually," he said.
Among those who reached out was Els, 42, whose fourth major title came as a shock to him, too. He played beautifully down the stretch, shooting a back-nine 32 and making a final-hole birdie that was satisfying enough that he was OK with second place.
Having been through the pain of losing majors, Els sympathized with his friend, gave a classy acceptance speech on the 18th green at Royal Lytham and kept in touch with Scott last week.
"The pain is there, I know that," Els said. "But he's handling it unbelievably well, and I truly think that he [now] believes he can win multiple majors. He had an opportunity; it didn't quite happen his way."
Els used the example of Nick Price, who let an Open get away from him in 1982 at Royal Troon, had another great opportunity to win at Royal Lytham in 1988 and then became No. 1 in the world, winning three majors from 1992 to 1994.
"So he's not the only one," Els said. "And he's young enough where he can bounce back and win quite a few."
Scott led the field in driving distance for the week at the Open and was cruising with a 4-shot lead after a birdie at the 14th hole during the final round. Although he was 1 over par at the time, only Els was playing better and he began the round 6 strokes back. He trailed by 4 after Scott's birdie at the 14th.
Then after a perfect drive at the 15th, things unraveled. Scott made a bogey there, three-putted the 16th for a bogey, missed the 17th green to the left -- the only play you can't miss there -- and then found a fairway bunker off the tee at 18, causing him to have to chip out.
Still, he had an 8-footer for par that would have put him in a playoff with Els -- and missed.
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"I could go over every shot and want to hit them all again," Scott said. "You could pick them all again that's just part of the process for me. I've got some more work to do. Everything was so great, [but] any error is just magnified under those circumstances. And certainly to miss it left on 17, that was poor by me. I could miss it so far to the right and still have a really good chance at making 4, but you just can't miss it left."
Scott acknowledged there had been some tension with his caddie, Steve Williams, who made more headlines than Scott did here a year ago after their victory together at the Bridgestone Invitational.
It was the first time Williams was the winning caddie after his high-profile breakup with Tiger Woods, with whom he won 13 major championships.
Williams left immediately after the round at Royal Lytham, and it was unclear whether there might have been an issue between the two. The only hint was that the body language between the two coming down the last few holes did not appear ideal.
"Obviously we're both disappointed with the outcome, we're both disappointed in both of our performances because we didn't get the job done," Scott said. "And hindsight is always a great thing, but it's 50-50 because you never really know what would have happened if you did something different.
"I think it's part of our relationship out there, growing and getting better, first time for us in that position. Hopefully we're going to put ourselves in that position a lot more, and we'll know how to handle each other that little bit better maybe.
"We just didn't quite match it up on the last few holes. That's what the pressure of those situations can do. It's unfortunate, but I think it's a great chance for us to rectify that next time."
Among those who got in touch with Scott afterward was Greg Norman, who knows his share of major championship heartbreak. The Aussie, who won two majors but suffered playoff defeats in each of the four majors, has served as a sort of mentor to Scott, and he phoned Scott that night.
Scott also quickly heard from Rory McIlroy, who last year also blew a 4-shot, 54-hole lead in a major, shooting a final-round 80 at Augusta National where he was still tied for the top spot with nine holes to play.
McIlroy bounced back to win the very next major, the U.S. Open.
"I sort of felt like I knew how he was feeling," said McIlroy, who is now ranked fourth in the world. "I just said to him, 'Don't let the last four holes hide the fact that you played better than everyone else for the first 68.'
"You just have to really believe in yourself and believe that for those 68 holes you were the best player that week. It's a tough loss. At the moment you think it's the only chance you're ever going to get, and your whole world came crashing down. But in reality, Adam is such a great player that he's going to have plenty of chances to win more major championships."
Scott seems to be taking that view. After years of frustration in the majors, he's put himself in position a couple of times, and sees progress, even if he has no trophy to show for it.
"I'm disappointed that I didn't win from that position, but I left that major the same as I've left every other one, and that's empty-handed," Scott said. "It's just motivation for me. I think I'm right on the right track, keep doing what I'm doing and I can get myself more chances like that."