Adam Scott: Golf’s True Gentleman

It was difficult to watch Adam Scott give away a four-shot lead with four holes to play and walk away from The Open Championship with a silver salver as the runner-up rather than the winner of his first major championship.

Immediately after he signed for a final round 75, Scott stood before a television camera and composed himself with such dignity and grace, even sport’s most stringent critics would have trouble saying a bad word – but many did.

Adam Scott Adam Scott

“It wasn’t to be,” said Scott. “That’s golf, isn’t it?”

What had transpired over the four previous holes at Royal Lytham had Scott’s critics reverting back to the painful memories of some of Greg Norman’s infamous collapses, yet Scott at the post-round media conference answered every question with clarity and honesty.

Scott offered no excuses and for him to be linked with Norman was to be expected.

Norman lost far more majors than he won, through a combination of bad golf and bad luck. To no one’s surprise, it was that six-shot lead he squandered at the 1996 Masters that was raised and Scott responded with dignity to the suggested correlation between the two events and the obvious inference that he had choked.

“Greg was my hero when I was a kid, and I thought he was a great role model, how he handled himself in victory and defeat,” said Scott.

“You don’t want to sit here and have to – I can’t justify anything that I’ve done out there. I didn’t finish the tournament well today. But next time – I’m sure there will be a next time, and I can do a better job of it.”

In a strange way, it was the very best of Scott.

Scott’s message was similarly upbeat. He had been shaken but not stirred and had take strength from his performance. He had proved good enough to get into a winning position and he would get there again.

Greg Norman has backed Scott to bounce back from the events at Royal Lytham.

No-one has been a bigger influence on Scott’s career than the Great White Shark, the pair having formed a strong bond together over the years.

When Scott took out the 2009 Australian Open it was Norman who handed the Stonehaven Cup to an emotional Scott, the pair exchanging words that brought a smile to Scott’s face. On the Sunday evening after Royal Lytham, the pair spoke at length on the phone about what had transpired.

Apart from a jittery short par putt on the 16th, Scott’s fatal collapse in no way resembled a ‘choke’. Sure he was nervous, but Scott’s closing shots were more imprecise than a wild mishit.

Scott’s greatest problem proved to be his putting – which is clearly his nemesis. In his first three rounds, Scott had 26, 30 and 30 putts. In his last, he had 34.

Scott said he was already eager to get back on the course to exploit the form that had taken him to a position from which he could – and should – have claimed his first major title.

He will have that opportunity at the USPGA Championship where all eyes will be watching how Scott responds to the events at Lytham.

“My golf game is in fantastic shape,” says Scott.

“I have probably never been more confident. There are so many things to look back on – start of the week, give me that 10-footer to go into a play-off and I’m going to take it.”

At 32-years of age, Scott is still young enough to be competitive for an extended period of time and maybe this is why it did not hurt so much. Time is on Scott’s side and he will get another chance.

We also need to keep in perspective that Scott lost to a great player.

Els came home guns blazing – four under par – on Royal Lytham’s back nine, which is no easy feat with the 15th, 17th and 18th holes providing the sternest of tests in any closing stretch in The Open Championship.

He had been six strokes behind at the turn and went on to win his second Open and fourth major title. Els was a worthy winner, was gracious in victory and, like Scott, obtained the admiration of the sporting world that week at Lytham.

How well Scott rebounds will be his true test of character.

Maybe he can do a Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman is in golfing history for winning last year’s US Open by eight shots at Congressional after his implosion on the back nine in the Masters when he, like Scott, began the final day with a four-shot lead.

Scott may not yet have his name on the caret jug, but he’s still got his wins at the 2004 Players Championship, a 2006 Tour Championship, and last year’s World Golf Championship at Firestone. He also has two runner-ups at the tis year’s majors after his equal second last year’s Masters.

Losing with dignity is half the battle. Scott showed that he can do that and in the process has identified himself as a true gentleman – he should not be labelled anything else.