Date: May 19, 2014
Author: Mike Clayton /

Clayton: Memories of a young Scott

week Adam Scott ascends to the top of the world rankings, the first player of ours since Greg Norman to reach the statistical pinnacle of the game. Since Norman, Tiger Woods has dominated the landscape and his injury-enforced absence has allowed the others a chance to win the necessary points to go past.

Scott though is hardly undeserving and his play in the biggest tournaments has elevated him above the other pursuers the closest of whom are Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson. 

If one were to be critical it would be to suggest for all Scott’s talent and his recent opportunities at the major championships winning one, last year's famous U.S Masters, is something of a poor return.

It is easy to be critical from the side and Norman’s career is something of a reminder of how difficult it is to win the biggest championships. Fate, nerves and the great play of another can all intervene to deny.

Norman himself found all three ways to lose.

Scott’s terrible four bogey finish to the 2012 Open Championship at Lytham was evidence of how it can all go wrong and how, in what is essentially a slow game, it can all happen so quickly.

To come back so quickly at Augusta and win so brilliantly was not easy when he had to know he would forever be remembered for his failure at Lytham unless he rectified those errors with proof he wasn’t one crippled by the tension of achieving a life-long dream.

Scott has always been a remarkable and obvious talent.

The first time I saw him play was at Cranbourne in the 1999 Victorian Open.

I’d heard of him but never seen him hit a shot and the first drive he did hit was an awful hook far into the left trees. He fumbled his way to a nervous teenage six on the easy par five opener and then birdied the next five holes, four of them with putts so short he could have kicked them in.

It hardly took a keen eye for new talent to know here was a kid with an unusually special game.

Kim Felton, a contemporary of both Scott and Geoff Ogilvy said he always knew they were better than ‘all of the rest of us’.

‘You just had to see them hit a two iron to know how good they were,’ Felton said.

Interestingly one thing you will never hear about a talented player is someone comment ‘you just had to see him hit a hybrid to know how good they were.’ Not every great player – Lee Trevino and Peter Thomson immediately come to mind – has had the ability to hit those awesome, high long irons but those with the skill to hit the straight bladed clubs far into the air possess a rare skill and Scott does it as well as anybody ever.

Some people worry about the long putter and its deregulation in 2016 but seemingly Adam is not concerned in the slightest. His father, himself a golf pro, noted last week that ‘he really only had one bad year with the short putter and he will either go back to it or find a legal way of using a longer club.’ Those who suggest he will disappear without the crutch of a broomstick are deluded and forget how good he used to look with a short putter in his hands. Perhaps he wasn’t the best but he was hardly horrible.

Just as things can happen really quickly for a slow game so it is with careers.

It was impossible to believe when Arnold Palmer walked off the 18th green at Augusta as a 34 year-old that it would be his last major championship win and it was exactly the same for Tom Watson as he finished up the 1983 British Open with a brilliant long iron into the 72nd green.

Neither won again on the biggest stages and Scott too is nearly 34 years old.

To watch him play now suggests there are more great days ahead but as a famous football coach once said, ‘it’s later than you think.’

Either way, he joins Norman and Karrie Webb as Australians to be ranked at the top and it is an achievement worthy of great praise.