June 11, 2014

Adam Scott views Colonial title as springboard to U.S. Open success

Top player in world rankings motivated to stay there, prevail at Pinehurst

Adam Scott, reigning champion at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, began the season with no plans to compete in Fort Worth.

But as the world’s top-ranked golfer prepares for Thursday’s opening round at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C., he points to his Colonial triumph as “an important part of my lead-up to the U.S. Open” and validation of his month-long status as the No. 1 golfer in the world.

During his victory in Fort Worth, Scott said he honed mental and physical skills that he can translate to Pinehurst No. 2, also a par-70 venue with small greens and lots of strategic options at each hole, like Colonial.

Scott, 33, plans to carry those lessons to the first tee Thursday in his quest to win the second major championship of his career ... and his first major while competing as the world’s top-ranked player.

“There’s an overall plan,” Scott said of his scheduling strategy in maximizing preparation for major championships. “My plan wasn’t to play Colonial originally. But I felt I needed to get back out on the golf course ... and it was a challenge for me.

“It tested my patience a little bit. It demanded a lot out of my game, with a lot of irons off the tees, chasing it down fairways. That could hold me in good shape as we look to the U.S. Open and the [British] Open. It’s all stuff you can store up and hopefully draw on the experience the next couple of months.”

Scott responded well in his debut as the world’s No. 1 golfer, claiming the Colonial crown six days after supplanting Tiger Woods at the top of the rankings. He outlasted Jason Dufner, the reigning PGA champion, in a three-hole playoff in Fort Worth. Scott followed with a tie for fourth at the Memorial Tournament, his last competitive effort in preparation for Pinehurst.

Scott enters the U.S. Open carrying three noteworthy streaks. He’s made the cut in 35 consecutive PGA Tour events, the longest active mark among tour members. He’s survived the cut in 11 consecutive major championships, including his victory at the 2013 Masters, and he’s strung together seven consecutive sub-par rounds.

During that 126-hole stretch heading into Pinehurst, Scott is 20-under par. He split the fairway with 80.4 percent of his drives at Memorial and hit 72.2 percent of his greens in regulation at Colonial. That recent surge has elevated Scott’s confidence heading into the lone major championship where he has yet to post a top-10 finish in his career.

“I’ve done exactly what I needed to do,” said Scott, whose best career finish at the U.S. Open is a tie for 15th in 2012. “I’ve got momentum going into the major. I’m swinging the club as good as I have this year, so I’m really confident.”

Jason Day, a fellow Aussie who is No. 7 in the world golf rankings, knows Scott as well as any tour competitor. A two-time runner-up at the U.S. Open (2013, 2011), Day dismissed the theory that Scott’s streaky putting stroke tends to hamper him at this event.

“He’s an accomplished player. He’s won a lot of big tournaments,” Day said. “He’s won around the world. He’s No. 1 for a reason and that definitely has given me motivation, seeing him in that top spot. I’ve always wanted to get to that No. 1 spot. It’s still on my radar.”

But the top spot belongs to Scott, who has stretched his advantage over pursuers since climbing to No. 1. Scott heads into Thursday’s round with 9.06 average points, comfortably ahead of No. 2 Henrik Stenson (7.72) and No. 3 Bubba Watson (7.37).

Now in his fourth week as the world’s top-ranked golfer, Scott said he has no plans to vacate the position willingly. Instead, he uses it for motivation.

“Getting to No. 1 was such a journey and so much work went into it, I wasn’t going to settle for just staying there a week,” Scott said. “That helped put me in the right mindset to play well, and it showed up really on the weekend [at Colonial]. That’s when it counts. That’s what has made the past month so satisfying.

“You’ve got to try and develop a game that can be competitive on any golf course, and I think I’ve done that. I’ve won on a variety of different golf courses.”

Ideally, Scott would like to pick up his next victory at Pinehurst. If he does, a last-minute decision to play in Fort Worth could be viewed as a significant springboard in that direction.

Scott’s stellar season

Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial champ Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world golf rankings, leads the PGA Tour in consecutive cuts made (35), including all nine in 2014. A look at Scott’s stellar season:

Event Finish Relation to par
Tournament of Champ. T-6 14-under
Sony Open in Hawaii T-8 10-under
Honda Classic T-12 4-under
WGC-Cadillac Champ. T-25 5-over
Arnold Palmer Invit. 3 11-under
Masters T-14 1-over
The Players Champ. T-38 2-under
Colonial 1 9-under
Memorial T-4 10-under

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