In this exclusive interview with Golf Australia columnist-at-large, John Huggan, Adam Scott speaks candidly about playing at home, the Presidents Cup, juggling Tour and family commitments as well as the drive to still be competitive, very competitive, beyond 40.
It is a couple of days before the start of the BMW Championship at Medinah, part two of the PGA Tour’s FedExCup “Playoffs” (what he would later call a “big old exhibition”) and Adam Scott is in reflective mood.
Now into his 40th year on the planet (he turns 40 next July), the first and so-far only Australian to win the Masters Tournament is looking forward and back on a season that, while hardly the best of Scott’s already stellar career, has brought reassurance. Even more good things, he feels, are in his future, both on and off the course. Which makes perfect sense. Over the course of a PGA Tour season in which he has won more than $4 million, Scott has played much good and sometimes great golf. But each time he has put himself in the best position to win, someone else has had a career week. Second at the Farmers Insurance Open and The Memorial, he lost to record-low scores in both. That happens.
“If I have criticism of myself it is that I have generally been starting Sundays too far behind,” he says. “I have played really nice rounds, got my hopes up by, say, the 14th green, but still been needing some help from others over those closing holes. I’d like to start a couple in front on Sunday and see if I can play that nice round from the front.
“Still, there have been some positive advances statistically, especially in my short game. I haven’t driven it quite as well as I can, but even that has been okay. I feel like it wouldn’t be hard for me to find a shot per round. That would go a long way at this level. So I still think I have a lot of really good golf to play. I can still win majors. In the first three of those this year I was in pretty good positions and didn’t quite get it done. I’m just not quite playing at the same standard as (World No.1) Brooks Koepka.”
On a slightly more prosaic level, this December will see the Adelaide-born, Queensland-raised star back in his homeland for three weeks of competitive golf.
For the first time since 2016 Scott will be in the field for the Australian Open at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney. He will then, for the ninth time, be an integral part of the International side in the Presidents Cup, before rounding off 2019 at the Australian PGA Championship.
It is the first of those commitments that is perhaps most significant. Scott has been a notable absentee from his national championship over the last couple of years, a sad fact that has had more to do with those eternal soulmates, politics and money, than anything else.
“I’m definitely playing in the Aussie PGA this year,” he underlines. “And I hope I will play in the Aussie Open. I’d like to play in the Aussie Open. I like The Australian Golf Club. So although I cannot say completely definitively, I think I will be playing there in December.”
No matter, it is the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne that is dominating Scott’s thoughts as he sits in the sunshine beside the Medinah practice green. Eight times he has suited up in International colours for the biennial contest with the United States; seven times he has finished on the losing side. Two years ago, at Liberty National in New Jersey, Scott was part of a team that was far from competitive. With the home side ahead by 11 points going into the 12 final day singles, the mismatch continued. Although Scott himself was victorious – 3 & 2 over Koepka – the final 14-point margin (22-8) was humiliating.
Not surprisingly, it is clear that Scott does not look back on his Presidents Cup experiences with any great fondness.
“At times, my enthusiasm for the matches has waned,” he admits. “There has often been stuff going on behind the scenes. That didn’t bother me so much when I was younger. I would just get on with it and play. But as I have gained more experience and have developed opinions on the way things should be, it changes.
“I hope we can win, or at least do better than last time. We must do that. In fairness, the result always dictates how anyone feels about the matches. But I already know that we will do better than last time. (Non-playing captain) Ernie (Els) has really addressed a lot of the internal problems we have had. He will have our team more organised.
“Maybe we should be looking at what the Great Britain & Ireland teams were doing wrong in all the Ryder Cup matches they lost before the Europeans came on board. I suspect they were pretty much resigned to losing. And we are not far off that feeling. This will be my ninth Presidents Cup and a draw in the first of those is the best any of my teams have managed. I’ve been on the losing side ever since. So my memories of the Presidents Cup are not great.”
Still, while it has forever been difficult to predict a brighter future than the murky past that has so far been the International side’s lot – their only victory came in 1998 at Royal Melbourne – Scott is this year optimistic about a contest that has only rarely lived up to that name. With a strong character and personality like Els in charge things are, he feels, about to change.
“One of the issues we have had – as a result of the diversity within the team – is how well we have been able to bond together for a common cause,” he continues. “It’s not naturally there. I’m not sure why the continental Europeans and the British and Irish have been able to achieve that so well. Maybe because they had some success soon after they got together. But that is the sort of camaraderie we need to aim for. I told Ernie to be tough on everyone. We’re all big boys. We can take it. I told him to get us to stand behind him and run things that way. Demand points from the team, no matter what.
“Anyway, I’m excited about what we can achieve in Melbourne. There is a different level of tactics coming in, finally. Even though I’ve had a voice as a senior player the last few times, it has never been my thing to try and run the show. So our team has never really played the way I would have played them. But that’s not my job. I’m not the captain. I’m just out there to win a point. But I’m happy we are doing something a bit different this year. There is a definite strategy in place. Which is good. Besides, what do we have to lose by doing something different?”
“I want the Americans to stand on the first tee feeling a little bit uncomfortable.” – Adam Scott
Mention of the Ryder Cup is no coincidence. According to Scott, at least one leaf has been taken out of the playbook (then European skipper) Paul McGinley used to such good effect in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Which makes sense. There is little doubt that the outwardly genial but inwardly cut-throat Irishman moved the previously moribund concept of team captaincy forward with his innovative thinking and tactics.
“The Ryder Cup seems to be more intimidating for the Americans,” says Scott. “But they get welcomed everywhere they go on our turf, which is fine. But last time at Royal Melbourne the crowds were incredibly welcoming to our visitors. Which is nice. But come on. I want the Americans to stand on the first tee feeling a little bit uncomfortable in as many matches as possible. So that they are vulnerable. They seem to have some sort of invincibility shield on when they play the Internationals. But not against the Europeans. So it would be nice to see and hear our crowd creating a bit of that sort of atmosphere in December. There is no reason why we can’t do that.”