AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Adam Scott admits to being befuddled by his inability to perform in major championships, but he's hoping that the 75th Masters might be the turning point in his learning curve.
Scott found the rhythm in his swing and he made a series of putts with his new best friend, a long putter that he put in his bag just two months ago, and he put himself in decent position to challenge for his first major victory with a five-under-par 67 Saturday at Augusta National GC.
His climb to the one major that has escaped an Australian-born player is still considerable -- his seven-under 209 total trails Rory McIlroy by five shots. Nevertheless, Scott, 30, is looking at one of his best opportunities to break through in his 39th major start.
"I was lost as to why I wasn't playing my best golf at the majors," admits Scott, who has seven PGA Tour titles. "My record here isn't horrible, but never really in contention, always middle of the pack. It took me a long time to figure out why. I'm not bringing my best game into the majors, yet the week after or the week before, I can win. I've done that a fair few times. It's hard to figure out. So you know, I think I'm getting a better understanding. Maybe I'm just a slow learner."
That's not exactly true. He finished T-9 in his Masters debut in 2002. But the protÃ©gÃ© of Greg Norman hasn't been in the top 10 at Augusta since. And he has but four top-10 finishes in majors thus far against 14 missed cuts.
Ball-striking has seldom been his problem. Navigating putting surfaces has been another story. After struggling in Hawaii, his coach, Brad Malone, suggested he give the long putter a try after experimenting with it himself. He broke it out at the Accenture Match Play Championship and he's made it work.
On Saturday, Scott needed just 26 putts. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you only have six feet for eagle like he did at 13. Only one of his holed putts exceeded 20 feet.
"I'm feeling more and more comfortable with it, and certainly putting nicely helps here," Scott said. "It's very hard to get it around this golf course, no matter how good you're hitting it, if you're not putting well, because it's very difficult putting here."
At T-6, Scott is one of three Aussies among the top 10 going into Sunday's final round. Jason Day is T-2 and Geoff Ogilvy T-9. A Down Under breakthrough here has been longed talked about. This has been the best shot for Australia's contingent since Stuart Appleby finished T-7 in 2007 after holding the 54-hole lead.
"I don't think the guys here carry a burden," Scott said of he and his countrymen. "I think no one here is thinking there's a voodoo on us from Australia. I think it just hasn't happened. We are not a huge country but we certainly get our fair share of guys in this tournament every year it seems. No one's got over the line yet. But it's going to happen."
*-- Dave Shedloski