LA JOLLA, Calif. - The most mysterious player at the 108th U.S. Open is not coming back from knee surgery, nor is he turning Torrey Pines into his own mythical quest - a holy grail for a man long kidded about his pot belly, if you will. Adam Scott is playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson the first two days, though, playing Val Kilmer to Tiger-Phil's Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro show.
He's also battling his own injury - a broken right pinkie finger that frankly makes a player who's already often seen as a little too dainty with his snazzy Burberry outfits look even wimpier. Tiger hobbles around on his battered knee, Scott soothes an aching pinky. Sometimes the symbolism screams out.
Scott hasn't been saying much of anything himself at Torrey Pines, though, letting his coaches do his talking until he sat down at a press conference this morning. If Scott wants to avoid the camera glare - and the questions about how a world-class athlete supposedly accidentally slams his finger in a car door - he'll soon be out of luck, though.
"You're looking for Adam Scott?" PGA Tour journeyman Dean Wilson asked me of a player who seemed to be nowhere at overcast Torrey Pines yesterday. "Well, just wait. You'll see plenty of him."
Adam Scott may become the most analyzed third wheel in history. He can joke all he wants about blending in amongst the white-hot nexus of Tiger and Phil, but that spotlight isn't going to turn off when he's hitting shots. Truth is, Scott could have went about his major with little muss or fuss if he'd been put in any other threesome. His fans tend to be jazzed up teenage girls, college co-eds and older grandmothers (the type who'd swat your bottom on a fishing boat). It makes for a decent-sized crowd, but not a whole lot of golf pressure.
Tomorrow, Scott gets golf pressure - 100 proof.
There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether Scott can handle the stage, too. The Australian makes Sergio Garcia look like Ben Hogan under pressure. He's only had four top 10s and not even one near-miss in 28 career majors, which is equivalent to Kevin Garnett's long string of first-round playoff losses early in his NBA career. Garnett had others to blame, too. Not Scott.
It's hard to imagine Scott beating himself up for this record, though. This surfer seems to carry the surfer's creed that there's always a next wave coming right over to the golf course with him. When Scott lost to Woody Austin at the Match Play Championship earlier this year, a match he had no business losing having been up two holes late, he turned around and walked right back up the fairway after Austin's playoff putt dropped.
It wasn't a fuming, hell-bent stalk as much as a perturbed, slightly annoyed one, though. Scott didn't look like he wanted to chuck his putter as much as he wanted a glass of iced tea.
"Adam Scott," Bob Logan, a golf fan who'd come down from Newport Beach to watch Torrey Pines practice rounds, said dismissively. "Why are you asking me about Adam Scott? That guy has no junkyard dog in him. I call him one of Tiger's pushovers."
When the guy from Newport Beach - land of rich guys and MTV living-in-the-hills reality celebrities - is dissing you, you've got perception problems.
It's hard to fight the image when you're a good-looking guy who knows how to dress without reading any men's magazine advice columnist. If anything, Scott sometimes seems too perfectly put together, too cool. He's a 27-year-old who can come across like he has all the cares and life-worries of Donald Trump's baby.
People often make the mistake of assuming desire is something that can be simply turned on, or dialed up, in sports. That it's as easy as a pro athlete deciding he's going to want it more. This doesn't give nearly enough credence to how valuable a skill-set driving desire is. Makeup deserves as much focus as a sweet repeatable swing.
You'd think that the era of Tiger Woods, the ultimate want-to athlete, would have taught us that.
The standard talk about Scott simply turning it on is really crazy talk. That's seldom done, and who says Scott even needs to? He's rich beyond most people's wildest dreams ($8 million in off-course endorsement earnings last season). He could pick numerous hot women out of his gallery or off the street. He's already setting the stage for a second career as golf course architect (his father is a relatively well known one in Australia).
Chances are better than 90-10 that Adam Scott will only be traveling by Lear Jet the rest of his life.
How important really is being the best or even winning a major?
I'd love one of these guys like Scott to admit that, but, of course, it's never going to happen. It couldn't happen. Not in today's 24/7 world of macho posturizing posing as sports talk. You thought Mike Piazza's "I'm not gay" press conference from several years back was awkward?
Scott or anyone else who shrugged off the unquenchable need for the championship trophy would have to get up on a podium and scream, "I do beat myself up when I lose! I do beat myself up when I lose! Want to see! I'll smash myself in the teeth with this new driver - available for $359.49 at your local Sports Authority."
It's much better to project brooding inner torment, as manufactured as a Sean Penn performance or not.
"I think there's other players out here that are in a similar position to me, like Adam Scott," Garcia said. "We're all trying to achieve that elusive goal."
Do they really care, though? Deep down? And why should it matter to us so much if they don't?
June 11, 2008
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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