Date: July 31, 2013
Author: Martin Blake /

Scott primed for season’s home straight

Once again, Adam Scott is confronted with a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty scenario as he prepares for the Bridgestone Invitational tournament, part of the lucrative World Golf Championships, in Akron, Ohio this week. Scott is less than two weeks through a period of contemplation over his second, consecutive tossing away of a great chance to win the British Open Championship, this time at Muirfield where four straight bogeys on the back nine allowed Phil Mickelson to walk away with the Claret Jug. The Australian had to be content with a tie for third and the situation is not unlike Royal Lytham in 2012, when his four-shot lead evaporated against Ernie Els, suffering death by his own hand. Which is where the glass-half-full Scott attitude kicked in. Back in 2012, Scott found a way forward, happy to at last be a regular contender in major championships even if his nerve failed him at the end. It was an optimistic view that allowed him to jump straight in and win The Masters tournament at Augusta National in April rather than wallow in self-pity, and it has seen him entrench himself in the top five players in the world. At Firestone Country Club this week he will come in as one of the favourites on form, a winner of the tournament at this same venue in 2011 in an event made famous for his then new caddie, Steve Williams, virtually claiming the tournament for himself after the bagman was sacked by Tiger Woods a month earlier. In all the fuss over the Tiger-Stevie tete-a-tete, it was somehow lost that Scott had recaptured the game that took him as high as No. 3 in the world prior to his difficulties through 2009-10. Nor has he lost it since. Scott&aposs record in the majors over the past three years is peerless; six top-10 finishes in 11 starts including a win, two runner-ups and a third. At 33, he is in the best vintage of his career, even if his needs to find a way to finish what he starts. Scott has picked and chosen his events this year under the regime he started in 2011, resting where possibly early in the season and focussing on the majors. Although he is 11th on the Fedex Cup rankings he has played just 10 tournaments, the equal-fewest of anyone in the top group of players along with Woods, and a pittance against some of the other grinders. The fifth-placed Billy Horschel, for instance, has already played 20 tournaments. Scott played his fewest-ever US tour tournaments in 2012, at 16 events, and it will be similar this year. But the grind is about to start for him, with the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill immediately following the Bridgestone Invitational as the final major of the season. Then there are the four US tour playoff tournaments, and beyond that, the Presidents Cup. Assuming that he makes the cut of 30 players for the Tour Championship in Atlanta in September, Scott will play eight events in the next 10 weeks. As Mickelson acknowledged yesterday, it is the home straight, the time when players can put the exclamation mark on their seasons. The American told a media conference at Firestone that while he was focussed on finishing strongly, he had taken time to smell the roses, too. Mickelson told a nice story — “really weird&apos&apos was his description — of a dream he had on the night before the final round of the US Open at Merion, where he was contending. He woke up in a rented house having dreamt that he had already won. “It took me over a minute to realise that &aposI haven&apost played the final round. I&aposve got to get out and still do it&apos.&apos&apos All of which came in the context of how he feels about Muirfield, and the claret jug. “Every day I woke up in the last nine days and honestly, I look at the trophy to make sure I hadn&apost just dreamt that.&apos&apos Mickelson will be tough to beat this week, as will Tiger Woods, who has won an astonishing seven times at Firestone, though not in the past three years. There are four Australians in the field — Scott, Jason Day, Brett Rumford and Daniel Popovic, who is there on the back of his shock win at the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum last year. As for Scott, he goes at 11.30pm Thursday (Australian EST) with Dustin Johnson. The season is about to reach its climax.