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RSM Classic

How Adam Scott is coming to terms with a frustrating year

Sam Greenwood

November 17, 2021

ST. SIMON'S ISLAND, Ga. — Adam Scott offered this profound, yet humbling, comment on the eve of the PGA Tour’s final official event of 2021, the RSM Classic: "I've always based my career on being a winner, and that's been harder for me the last four or five years."

The 41-year-old Australian is known as one of the most quietly thoughtful players on the tour—the kind of person whose interviews may seem ordinary as they happen, because his delivery is so low-key, only to reveal themselves as surprisingly honest and insightful when you read them again later. Wednesday's press conference was an introspective look at the state of his game—and where his head is at—after a frustrating year.

Rock bottom for Scott in 2021 came at the Open Championship, when he finished T-46 and had to reckon with the fact that once again, the major season had passed with very few results to show.

"It had been a challenging season of golf for me," said Scott, who has 14 PGA Tour wins but just one (2020 Genesis Invitational) since 2016, "and of course that affects my general attitude. I put so much into my career and sacrificed a lot of things, including time at home, to do this, and I just wasn't getting the results."

That's the sort of secret downside to tour life that you don't often hear—the need to give up time with your family, and the knowledge that you may still not reach your goals, leaving you with two kinds of regret. Not only that, but as Scott mentioned later, he can find it difficult to turn his mind away from golf even in those times when he's at home.

Things improved from that point in July. Scott tinkered with his driver head and shaft, and has felt gradual improvement over the late summer and fall. He knows that when he's hitting the ball well off the tee, it trickles down to other parts of his game, as was the case in August at the Wyndham Championship, where he had his best chance at a PGA Tour win since that Genesis victory in 2020. Scott could have sealed the deal with a birdie putt inside five feet on the first playoff hole that Sunday, but a brutal miss ended up handing the tournament to Kevin Kisner.

Scott opted to play four events on the PGA Tour this fall in order to give himself a FedEx Cup buffer (he’s 63rd in the standings entering this week) when he heads back to Switzerland—his current base—and watches his place in the standings fall week by week until he returns for the Genesis in late February. In the meantime, he'll start 2022 playing in the Middle East as part of his plan to maintain membership on both the PGA and European Tours.

His most interesting response in an interesting interview came when he was asked a tricky question: How do you stay motivated after 20 years?

"It's ups and downs," he said. "I think in the down times … the frustration was there, then I came to the realization it's the only thing I know how to do. I don't have a lot of options outside of that, and I'd better get my head back on and figure it out."

Lucky for him, the fire remains, and he expects to rekindle it in his time off for the holidays. He has no plans beyond spending the holidays with his wife and three young children, and that comes with a side benefit: When it's over, he's raring to go.

"If you starve me of the competition and the opportunity of playing for a little bit, you come out very hungry," he said.

For now, in his first trip to Georgia's barrier islands, he'll have to find what hunger remains after a long season. Of course, Scott would like nothing more than to go out with a bang. It would give him that FedEx Cup cushion he’s looking for. More importantly, he'll have validated his hard work over a grueling year with the thing he craves most: a win.