Published August 01, 2012
AKRON, Ohio – There's no silver claret jug for Adam Scott, only a silver lining.
For two days after the British Open, where Scott lost a four-shot lead with four holes to play, he holed up at his home in the Swiss Alps and tried to digest what went wrong. The numbness he felt that Sunday evening, when Ernie Els was introduced as the champion golfer of the year, stayed with him. He didn't beat himself up. He didn't curl up in a corner. It was a time of quiet reflection, just as it is after every major.
It's when he went to the golf course at Crans-Sur-Sierre to hit balls that his outlook brightened considerably.
"I hit the first few balls, and I hit them nice," Scott said Wednesday. "And that was kind of a reminder that it's not horrible and I don't know how to play golf anymore. It was just four holes that I'll have to learn from and be tougher on myself next time I'm in that position, for sure."
That's what Scott took away from Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He is convinced there will be a next time. He's convinced there will be a major championship trophy in his name.
Scott still hasn't seen replays of that final hour. The soft bogey on the 15th. The three-putt bogey on the 16th. Belting a pure tee shot on the 17th, only to hit 6-iron to the left of the green to set up another bogey. And a 3-wood into the bunker on the 18th, which led to one final bogey to finish one shot behind.
"Look, I can imagine how it probably looked," Scott said. "If it was me watching somebody else, I certainly could feel for them. But for me ... I'm disappointed that I didn't win from that position, but I left that major the same as I've left every other one — and that's empty-handed."
Different from the others was remembering the first 68 holes that put him in that position.
Scott had never seriously contended in a major until last year at the Masters, where he made clutch putts over the closing holes and played well enough to win until Charl Schwartzel made history at Augusta National by closing with four straight birdies to win by two.
And now the Open.
Greg Norman, his golfing hero who knows more than most about coping with major setbacks, was among the first to call him Sunday night. More phone calls followed, along with more text messages than Scott could count. That included an exchange with Els, a close friend whose major triumph was tempered slightly by the way Scott lost. He also ran into Nick Price, a three-time major champion who squandered his first chance at the 1982 British Open when he closed with 73 and finished one shot behind Tom Watson.
The words helped, all of them, though Scott was well on his way to moving on.
"There wasn't that much healing for me," Scott said. "My game is in really great shape, and I just took a few days to rest up, and I certainly analyzed the last few holes a little bit and took out of it what I wanted, and then just though about how great I played. I felt like it was my week, and I played like a champion, but ... I played four poor holes at the end, and you can't win and do that.
"It's just motivation for me," he said. "I think I'm on the right track. Keep doing what I'm doing and I can get myself more chances like that."
The next one is a week away.
Scott headed to Kiawah Island earlier this week to see The Ocean Course, where the PGA Championship is being held for the first time. First up is the Bridgestone Invitational, where a year ago Scott claimed his first World Golf Championship by closing with a 65 for a four-shot win.
The 78-man field at Firestone is for select winners from around the world, the top 50 in the world ranking and players from the last Presidents Cup teams. Scott is the defending champion, though the favorite returns to being Tiger Woods, a three-time winner this year who has won seven times at Firestone.
Els is playing for the third straight week. He lived up to a sponsor obligation last week at the Canadian Open, where he missed the cut and hung around Toronto for the weekend to throw out the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game.
Els described his text messages with Scott as "buddy stuff." Even now, he feels for the 32-year-old Australian, even though their careers are nothing alike.
"The pain is there, I know that," Els said. "But he's handling it unbelievably well, and I truly think that he now believes he can win multiple majors. He had an opportunity. It didn't quite happen his way. But if you look back, Nick Price in the early '80s did the same, basically gifted Tom Watson one at Troon. And there's been quite a few situations like that. So he's not the only one.
"And he's young enough where he can bounce back and win quite a few."
Another text came from Rory McIlroy, who blew a four-shot lead at the 2011 Masters with an 80 in the last round. McIlroy won the next major with a record score at Congressional in the U.S. Open.
"I sort of felt like I knew how he was feeling," McIlroy said. "I just said to him, 'Don't let the last four holes hide the fact that you played better than everyone else for the first 68. ... It's tough. It's a tough loss. At that moment in time, you think it's the only chance you're ever going to get, and your whole world came crashing down. But in reality, Adam is such a great player that he's going to have plenty of chances to win more major championships."
That's the way Scott is looking at it.
As he headed to the practice range, he talked about taking more confidence out of the Open.
"If I felt like that was my last chance, I might never play again. I'd be devastated," he said. "I'm going to win. For me, the greatest thing for my career was to know that I can play that good in a major."
And he smiled at one last observation. It seems everyone feels sorry for Scott except him.