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Adam Scott: Player profile

'I Guess I'm Just Finally Filling Out'

August 2013

After completing his early-morning rituals, including a visit to his closet to slip on his recently acquired green jacket—just because—Adam Scott strolls down to the sumptuous swimming-pool area of The Albany Club in the Bahamas. There, against the turquoise backdrop of the Atlantic, he's subjected to something else that's becoming an increasing part of his life: worship.

It's understandable: Bronzed and chiseled, with a thick shock of curly brown hair and a rugged layer of designer stubble, Scott looks more like a Hollywood hunk preparing for the role of Achilles than a tour pro arriving for a magazine photo shoot.

After the makeup artist applies a perfunctory layer of color to his face, she half-jokingly tells co-workers she hopes Scott—or as she calls him, Adam Hot—will have some shirtless poses that will give her the chance to rub oil on his torso. Legendary photographer Walter Iooss Jr., who for decades has aesthetically assessed the body parts of elite athletes (and swimsuit models), comments on the size of Scott's arms (which, after the Masters, inspired the Twitter handle @AdamScottsBicep) and asks if he has been lifting more in the weight room.

"Nothing heavy," says Scott, 33, in his clear Australian intonation. "I guess I'm just finally filling out."

In the next few moments, a fashion director will compliment the colors, style and fit of Scott's clothing, and an instruction editor will praise his improved wedge play. Scott accepts it all gracefully, without a trace of entitlement. It's apparently his habit, because when a Bahamian limo driver who regularly takes Albany club members to the airport learns that Scott is the reason for my visit, he quickly volunteers, "Very nice young man. Never acts big."

Greg Norman, for one, concurs. Since offering his mentorship to the teenage Scott, the two Queenslanders have grown close, engaging in long talks at Norman's Florida home, where Scott frequently stays in the guest house.

"I love the idea of handing down what I've learned to someone like Adam," Norman says. "He's humble, he's kind, he's intelligent—but also a great listener who never sucks up all the oxygen in the room. All the things people like about him are real."

Indeed, the only person displaying a negative reaction to Scott is the other Adam Scott, a star on "Parks and Recreation," who got laughs after Scott's Masters victory with a spoof complaining about the lame jokes connecting him to his golf namesake. Otherwise, to borrow from a popular baked-goods slogan of yore, "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Adam Scott."

"I've honestly never heard anyone say, 'Oh, Adam, what a jerk,' " says his first teacher—his father, Phil, a former club pro. "He was an easy kid, and he's grown into an easy man."

Scott can get uncomfortable with all the effusiveness. He likes to counter with self- deprecation, pointing out that he's actually a very mediocre surfer, having started too late at age 20. Scott also contends that he's lousy at guitar and cooking, and he's only too happy not to counter the caddie-yard legend that in his younger days he had "no game" with women (though actress Kate Hudson and tennis star Ana Ivanovic might disagree).

But Scott also knows firsthand that being built up can be a setup for being torn down. "Back around 2005, I was marketed as part of the next wave of good golfers who were also good-looking guys," he says, mentioning Aaron Baddeley and Camilo Villegas as members of the group. "The message was that good looks lead to good play. But when that expectation wasn't met, we would hear, 'This guy's got it all, but he's not really performing on the golf course; he's just a good-looking guy. And he'll never play any good.'"

Perhaps the lingering sting played a role in Scott taking what seemed like a relatively small-scale media tour after his Masters victory. Even Scott's one network interview, on "CBS This Morning," was anticlimactic, as he squashed speculation that he would accept an invitation to become "The Bachelor" by revealing he is back in a committed relationship with Marie Kojzar, with whom he had broken up in 2008. Even PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem gently expressed his regret to Scott that Adam didn't do more appearances, making the case that the exposure would have been good for golf.

But as he has gotten older, Scott is more about what is good for his golf. He doesn't deny having worldly interests, including a taste for fashion and modern design that began while living in London and spending time in other culturally rich cities while playing the European Tour as a young pro. But in the past four years, the main purpose of his avocations is to make the respites in his playing schedule more renewing. No longer a global wanderer of tours who played too many events while tired and uninspired, Scott is playing a more selective schedule so he can show up ready, especially at the major championships.

"Adam's whole purpose is about being a golfer," says his father. "As a young teenager, that was his dream. As an adult, that's all he's done. It's made him a public figure, one who gets plenty of attention through the luck of his appearance and wearing clothes well. But he's not someone who feels like he has to be in the spotlight to be happy. I just think he's genuinely happy with what he does."

A few years ago, there was some doubt about that. When Scott won the 2004 Players Championship at 23, much was projected. Though he would win five more PGA Tour events in the next four years to reach No. 3 in the world, Scott was disappointing in the majors, where he had only three top 10s in that period.

From a playing standpoint, Scott's low-trajectory, low-spin ball flight made it difficult for him to stop the ball quickly on the firm greens at majors, and his mostly mediocre putting was further exposed on the fastest surfaces. Scott also came to be perceived as lacking work ethic and competitive desire—or simply being too normal and nice to be a champion.

'MY HEAD WAS A BIT MESSED UP'

That impression became conventional wisdom in a nightmarish 2008. In short order, Scott fractured his hand in a car door during a night out with friends, suffered a series of energy-sapping throat infections, and saw his seven-year relationship with Kojzar, a Swede whom he met when she was working as a nanny for Thomas Bjorn, end in a way that left him "gutted."

"My motivation for practice and everything lowered because my head was a bit messed up," Scott says. "Then all the wheels kind of fell off." After Scott shot 82-79 at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, he and longtime instructor Butch Harmon agreed to end their working relationship.

"The problem was, we were not seeing each other enough," Scott says. "Butch was 65, and he didn't want to travel as much. I was living in London, and I didn't want to travel to Las Vegas to see him. Because of that, some bad things had crept into my swing."

Harmon's parting advice for Scott: "Figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life and your golf game." By October, Scott had sunk to 76th in the world.

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