I spent about an hour with the engraver from Waterford crystal standing next to the 18th green yesterday at The Players Championship. A friendly Irishman, he joked that if Paddy Harrington won, “we’d need a bigger trophy.” “A-d-a-m-S-c-o-t-t, short and sweet,’ and we both laughed. “When do you think I can start,” he asked. “When he hits his second shot on 18 in the middle of the green,” I answered. The TPC at Sawgrass is fraught with peril through the final three holes, where the championship can be easily lost, or won, with one swing of the club. “It’s brutal,” is how Scott described it standing outside the media center.
His second shot on 16 wasn’t a good sign when he pulled it left into the rough. Though he made a nice chip and an easy par, left isn’t good on 17 or 18. So when he hit his pitching wedge in the middle of green on 17, left of where he was aiming, there was a little jitter in the crowd. Padriag Harrington went to the practice tee to warm up, even though Scott had a two shot lead. Harrington knows left is not good on 18. But when Scott smartly drove a 2-iron down the right side of the fairway on the final hole, the engraver started. Then stopped when Scott’s 6-iron second shot landed in the water, left of the green, never touching earth. “Not a good swing,” is how Scott described it, “just one of those things that happens around here.”
Just one of those things? Only when you’re 23 can you think that way. “A chip and a putt to win,” is how Scott recounted his thought process. Now that’s putting a positive spin on things. I just hit it in the water on the final hole of a big championship and am about to go down in history as the biggest choke in the history of the tournament, but “just a chip and a putt to win” is running through my mind.
Scott freely admits that he’s had fellow Aussie Greg Norman as his hero throughout his golfing life. Perhaps it was fate that he bumped into Norman in the practice area on Wednesday and asked for help with his chipping. The 1994 champion spent an hour trying to get Scott to accelerate through the ball on short shots. Apparently it worked, with Scott giving Norman credit for the variety of up and downs he made throughout the week.
“I wasn’t thinking about it, but I definitely used the new technique,” Scott said when I asked him about the lesson and his chip on 18. “It was the only shot I was kind of nervous over, but I said to myself, ‘just a chip and a putt to win.’ “There’s no way I would have been able to make that kind of chip with my old technique. Once it got up there, I didn’t let myself think of anything else but making that putt.” Maybe Scott didn’t think of anything else, but everybody else certainly was. Where does the playoff start?, was the thought on everybody’s lips. But Scott calmly made the putt, and the place exploded. “You should make that putt every time on perfect greens like these,” he explained. And that’s why he’s who he is. At 23 and already a two time winner on tour and 6-time champion around the world, everybody says he’s got the game to compete at the top. But it was those thoughts, those positive thoughts, those mental adjustments that showed who he is.