March 30, 2009

Fun Could Make Scott a Serious Threat

Geoff Ogilvy was hanging out at home near Phoenix a couple of months ago when the phone rang. Adam Scott, his close pal, was calling from their native land. "We have to do something," Scott said. "What's going on here is brutal." Bushfires were ravaging arid portions of Australia, wiping out entire towns. "People are jumping in cars as their houses go up in smoke," Scott explained, "but the flames are outracing traffic, causing crashes and more fatalities. People are jumping into swimming pools and boiling to death. The whole country is shaken."

Scott was appealing to a mate for help, while himself preparing to contribute. "Typical of Adam," Ogilvy says. "He has an awareness of what goes on around him, and a strong appreciation of how spoiled we are, how lucky we are to live like this just for playing golf. I'm also guessing that after Scottie commits to a cause, you have to pry it out of him to discuss it. [And if you aren't aware of Scott's foundation serving disadvantaged kids, that's OK too.] He's not into PR stunts like some guys. Also, those fires were nowhere near him. Miles away, from New York to Dallas, even further."

And to think, just as Scott decided he couldn't handle blanket TV and print coverage of the carnage in mid-February, he picked up one more newspaper. On the front, another report about the havoc and the body count. Then, he turned the page to that headline: "Golf, Girls and Gulfstreams" above a tale of this 28-year-old bachelor "fast becoming golf's number one playboy, linked to a string of sexy stars and now taking delivery of a $75 million jet." The juxtaposition of stories, and Scott's assertion that certain facts were fiction, was "disappointing." But, he sighs, "It is what it is."

Alas, it is what it is even when it isn't. "I would like for my clubs to do the talking," says Scott, aware that pictures of him with Kate Hudson on a beach in Hawaii perpetuate the notion about his laissez-faire attitude toward devotion to duty. "If you know me, you know that's not true," says Scott, whose modest self-defense of priorities is seconded resoundingly by friends such as his trusted swing coach. "Adam might want it too much," says Butch Harmon, eyeing the upcoming Masters. "He tells me he plays his best at majors on Tuesday. I tell him not to treat them like life and death, but only like golf. Because that's all it is."

Harmon feels there's "no way" Scott should rank outside the world's top five players, yet golf has found a way. At last June's U.S. Open, Scott was No. 3. But with Augusta National on the near horizon, he has skidded to No. 23, a circumstance Ogilvy predicts "will look like an aberration years from now when you judge Adam's career."

Scott's 2008 indeed was a wash. He fought three bouts of recurring tonsillitis—Harmon feared it was mononucleosis—that impeded Scott's swallowing, even breathing. He broke a finger, dislocated his right kneecap a sixth time (he still deals with a large cyst) and ended a longtime relationship. "Emotional," says Ogilvy. "Adam met his girlfriend about when I met Juli. We're married with two children."

This year, one Scott promises will be different, it's about the putter and the passion. "No question, to get results, you need to make putts," says Harmon. "But comparisons with Tiger are unfair. There's only one Tiger." Ogilvy, referring to another nominee as best-player-never-to-win-a-major, says, "Sergio Garcia has sorted out his problems on the greens. If Adam improves his putting 10 percent, he'll be just fine."

Scott assures the frustrations of last season have yielded to a new enthusiasm that closely resembles his old enthusiasm. Seeing Rory McIlroy, 19, just go out and hit it recently struck a chord. "Yes, I need to win a major," says Scott. "I also need to leave no stone unturned. But above all, I need to have fun."

He marvels at Woods' time management, but is so approachable that he can wind up packing two hours of work into an eight-hour day. While on the practice green at Doral, Scott wore earpieces as BS deterrents. But they weren't plugged into anything except his pants pockets. "A few of us are hopeless when it comes to chatting it up," says Ogilvy, who recalls how Scott disembarked a plane on the runway in 2006 when he heard the news. "I had won the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and Adam changed all his travel plans," Ogilvy goes on. "How many friends are that genuine? I'll do the same for him when it happens, and it will. Golf doesn't work when you try too hard, but it will happen. One of these days."

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