It wasn t the bloke in the Akubra hat with a swashbuckling walk who played Pied Piper to a massive crowd to Royal Sydney for today s opening round today but rather a quiet, reserved and so very humble chap. Australia has yearned for a genuine successor to Greg Norman for night on two decades now and now we have one in the form Adam Scott who, this year, did what the Shark couldn t, and that was win at Augusta National. Yes, they are dissimilar in so many ways. Norman was a charismatic, a man for the masses, and he excited them to a chorus of full voices with to brings roars that penetrated every corner of a golf course. Scott is a player more for the purists but that will surely change as time and continuing deeds of excellence goes by. For the past two weeks since Scott holed the winning putt for a successful defence of the Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne not a media conference has passed without a question or three about his chances of matching Robert Allenby s Triple Crown sweep of Australia three major championships in 2005. We wondered whether the physical and mental toll of winning the PGA and Masters and then combining with Jason Day to win the World Cup teams event at RM last Sunday would get the better of him. And, as well, he has paraded the green jacket for these past three weeks or so and stopped to sign every scrap of paper, hats and caps and, well you name it. The only time today he didn t sign an autograph save for when he was playing -was when he walked out of the locker-room and walked to the practice putting green to begin his preparations for the morning ahead. It was 6.05am and the only other folk around were tournament staff and fellow players and caddies and old-timers in the golfing industry who regard the early hours of the morning as the best time of day. Alex Mercer, NSW s legendary coach, was there and he warmly shook hands with the Masters Champion, telling him just how excited and proud he was of Scott s Augusta triumph. They go back a couple of decades to the junior days when Scott played for Queensland and Mercer coach the NSW team. Fatigue, what fatigue? Surely that was the thought of every one of the several hundred folk who d walked to the furthest corner of the Royal Sydney layout to the 10th hole for his 7.10am hit-off in company with Day and American Kevin Streelman. Yes, indeed. Scott birdied the first after a majestic iron shot to just a couple of metres and then halved distance to virtually tap in another birdie at the second hole. It then became a parade of birdies. All the time, they crowd was swelling. In olden days, we relied on the course grapevine for news from the course but, in these days of social media, word spreads in an instant. By the time he made his sixth straight birdie, the crowd was in its thousands, lining each side of the fairway, and so very reminiscent of the Stormin Norman days. So, too, were those six straight birdies. That was the very start the Shark made in the final round of the 1989 British Open at Royal Troon along the way to a course record 64 to muscle his way into the subsequent playoff with Wayne Grady and American Mark Calavecchia who took the title. The longest birdie putt in his straight six was around four metres on the par five 15th where he was denied a second shot to the green after his drive found the left fairway bunker. When he missed from around eight metres for birdie on the 16th, he raised his head to the heavens as if to say what the hell happened there, probably muttering under his breath I m a goose. His run was over. His best previous birdie streak was in the final round of the 2008 Qatar Masters to set up a three-stroke victory over Henrik Stenson. For the next eight holes the birdie flame flickered as, in his words, he had to grind for his pars, his immaculate iron-play of the first six holes momentarily deserting him. Then, the magic returned. He birdied the last four holes with a massive crowd surrounding the ninth green where the fans found full voice with a Normanesque roar when he knocked his sand wedge to a touch under a metre two feet on old measure if you like. It was a very nice reception going to the green. It had the feeling like it was the last hole on Sunday. It was nice to get that kind of reception walking up the last hole on a Thursday, Scott said. The result was a 10-under 62, and a course record by three shots from the mark held by Chris Gaunt, Matty Goggin, Jason Norris, Stephen Dartnell and Ewan Porter. Scott also bettered the Shark who won five Australian Opens, but his low round of the championship didn t come in victory. He had a 64 in the third round at Royal Sydney – then a course record but no longer because of subsequent alterations to the course that added length and had to be content with tied second in company with Nick O Hern behind the then 19-year-old amateur Aaron Baddeley. But, when you look at Scott s card today some time down the track it will appear he had 10 birdies straight from the sixth through the 15th as there will be no asterisk: Hit off the 10th. Yes, some day I m going to be able to embellish that I made 10 birdies in a row, but it will be a few years before I can get away with it, Scott said with a broad smile accompanied by laughter. Several times through marvelous career, marred only by his failure to win more majors that just two British Opens, Norman remarked afterwards he was in awe of himself, memorably after winning The Open at Turnberry in 1986 and again at Royal St George s in 1993. Scott doesn’t indulge himself with such words. He didn t after winning the Masters in April when his emotions, rarely seen, tumbled out as he roared: C mon Aussie in victory in the near darkness at Augusta. His summary of today s round, though, was, for those who trod every step with him, perfect. I think I ve gone through a roller-coaster of emotion out there today, from cruising after six holes to have to work pretty hard for the next six or seven holes just to make some pars it’s just incredible how in 18 holes you can have 360 degrees of emotion and mood swings and everything, he said. So pure did his strike the ball for the first six holes save for the drive on the 15th those around thought a 59 was on the cards, a genuine 59, for some are in the record books on par 71 and 70 courses. He would not have been human if he didn t think it was either, but despite his seemingly super-human first six holes he is a mere mortal afterall. Of course he thought 59. Well, yes, I mean, I wasn t thinking about it hard but I knew it was a possibility with having birdied the six holes I felt there were good opportunities still to come, Scott said. Last week, both Scott and Day lamented the changes in the World Cup format, with the emphasis now on the individual trophy, won by Day, rather than the teams, which saw the two players of each country playing well apart and not in team uniform. Well, there they were today crossing each other s paths before meeting up on the first tee and they were dressed almost identical navy blue shirts and bone trousers. No, they hadn t discussed their dress but maybe there were transferred thoughts between them in their respective hotel rooms before they left for the course. We kind of got the team colours a week late there, Scott said. Day s start was, well, pedestrian compared with Scott on the first two holes they played. He three-putted the first and his drive, or three wood, (I was down in the landing area so couldn’t distinguish which) went well left over a cyclone fence covered in hessian screening between the course proper and the adjacent par three course and practice range. Day, and those around, could identify his ball over the fence and the rules official on the spot confirmed the ball was still in play and that Day could have a drop under the temporary immovable obstruction rule. Day chose to play it, over the fence. The trouble was, it was a 100-metre run around the fence, or to climb it. He chose to have an impromptu gym session and placed his hands on top of the two-metre fence and vaulted over. Quite spectacular it was, too. He was a great shot from close to the fence and over high trees to the left of the green, but his ball came up just short and he then took three shots to get down. It was his second bogey in two holes, but he recovered to finish with a two under 70. Of Scott s round, he said: You re watching the show, really. That s how the best players in the world play and I got to witness it today and it was very special. That s something that I m going to remember for a long time. I look forward to playing with him tomorrow and hopefully catching him. Australia is pretty much starved of sporting heroes on the world stage right now I m dismissing that quite unusual Anthony Mundine winning a world boxing title last night and four Ashes Tests remain but Scott is a beacon. May it continue for a decade and then some more. He is without doubt the new figurehead of Australian golf, and also one of the nicest guys you d ever want to meet among the sporting world.
Author: Peter Stone at Royal Sydney Golf Club