Date: February 27, 2014
Author: Martin Blake /

Scott returns to action in Florida

Adam Scott&aposs sabbatical is done. A six-week break, spent at his home in the Bahamas, has refreshed the Australian and his new season, plus the quest for a world No. 1 ranking, begins tomorrow at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida in the Honda Classic. The world No. 2 told reporters at PGA National today he had taken a full three weeks off without touching a club after he played in the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, resting up and indulging his love of surfing. After that, the urge took over and he began practising at the range, where he has worked hard since. “It was hard to kind of wind down to be honest and not go and play. I&aposve been playing really nicely, so that always makes it easier to want to go to the golf course.&apos&apos He comes to Florida with his defence of the Masters at Augusta National in April at the forefront of his mind, and he says he is ready. “I think even though I&aposve just had a little bit of a break, I&aposm giving myself enough time to peak,&apos&apos said Scott. “It&aposs obvious what I&aposm trying to peak for, but these are all important steps, and a poor performance sets you back.&apos&apos It is the Queenslander&aposs third start of the season, after consecutive tournaments to start the calendar year in Hawaii where his fatigue showed. He has followed this path — a long break through January to remain fresh for the majors — since 2011, around the same time he hired his brother-in-law Brad Malone as coach, Steve Williams as caddie, and reinvigorated his career. It is very much a Tiger Woods-style schedule, with around 15 PGA Tour events on his schedule compared with around 20 prior to 2011. Of course you need to play well enough to keep your ranking points up and justify that light a schedule, but Scott has found that it works nicely for him. He did not even play the World Golf Championship Accenture Matchplay in Arizona last week despite it being a $9 million tournament. The idea is to recharge the batteries, for there are some big tournaments coming up, notably the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral in Florida from 6-9 March, and soon after that, the Masters at Augusta National. Woods and Phil Mickelson had the same notion; they did not play at Dove Mountain in the matchplay last week either, leaving Jason Day to win and climb to No. 4 in the world. Day, incidentally, is not in the field this week. “My break came (in the early part of 2014),” Scott said. “I figured I could take the whole West Coast Swing off and start here. Tiger and Phil haven t played a lot and they obviously identified this one as a good one to play, too.&apos&apos There are a bunch of Australians in the field for the Honda, which boasts the strongest field of the season so far including Woods, Scott and Mickelson, the top three on the rankings. Scott has not played at PGA National since 2011, when he shot 77-82 and missed the cut. The course is tough, a creation of Jack Nicklaus that includes the famous (or infamous) Bear Trap, the closing stretch of holes. “It’s like a major,&apos&apos said Scott. “The course sets up well for me, and it fit in perfectly with my schedule and a lot of other players , too.&apos&apos He tees at 4.25am (eastern Australian time) tomorrow with Billy Horschel and Rory McIlroy in his group. Woods, who has had a slow start to the year by his standards, also has had a lengthy break but he still holds a healthy lead in the world rankings, 10.27 points to Scott&aposs 8.79. The Australian achieved his highest career ranking in December during his hot streak at home, winning the Australian Masters and the Australian PGA as well as finishing third in the individual section of the World Cup and running second to McIlroy at the Emirates Australian Open, but he is confronted with a huge task ahead to overhaul Woods. In essence, he would need to win more majors, possibly repeat his 2013 performance and at the same time, Woods would have to tail off a little. The gap is quite substantial but there is no doubt it will cause some debate in 2014 if Scott can, say, defend his Masters title and win the green jacket again. As for Woods, he missed the cut in his season-opener then struggled to a T41 finish in Dubai that raised eyebrows about his form. But he professed to be feeling good upon arrival in Palm Beach. “It feels good,” Woods said. “I was pleasantly surprised how well I was hitting it (Wednesday).” His expectations are delightfully simple. “If I hit it great and win, if I slap it all over the place and win, I win,” Woods said. “That&aposs the intent.”