April 15, 2013

Loran Smith: Adam Scott spared himself anguish with Masters victory


— Sometimes there are makeup calls. Sometimes life follows up a bad hand with a good one. Sometimes fate can be redeeming and rewarding. Not always, but that is now no concern of Adam Scott, who is basking in the glow of the spotlight reserved for Masters champions.

He has escaped that ignominious category — those who come close but never win a major, those who never take home a ring. A guy plays baseball for 15 years and averages $5 million a year in income but is missing something professionally if he never wins a World Series ring.  Get rich playing professional football but never win a Super Bowl and you are considered not to have had a successful career.

Such talk has become topical, of course, only in the modern era of media overkill.

Ted Williams said he never heard about the “Curse of the Bambino” during his days in Boston. Today we not only celebrate the champions, but the agony of defeat becomes as prominent when championships are chronicled and replayed. The losers must tell their story.

The story of the 2013 Masters is all about Scott, but Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker will have to replay their failure to earn a green jacket. When they have been in position to win, they have not finished — something that will be duly noted until they either win a major or fade into retirement.

About the time Scott was set to power his tee shot down the fairway on the first hole of the Masters on Sunday, standing outside the clubhouse under the big tree — which is one of the most famous meeting points in the world — was Scotsman Colin Montgomerie.

Winner of a record eight European Order of Merit titles, Montgomerie won 31 European Tour events and never lost a singles match in Ryder Cup competition. He captained the European team to victory in the 2010 Ryder Cup matches. But the thing that will always be noted when his name comes up is that he is the best player never to win a major.

Perhaps this is unfair, but it can happen to a lot of championship-caliber players.

Scott might have been keeping Mont-gomerie and others company had he not made the pressure putt on the second playoff hole to win the Masters. After all, he had bogied the final three holes at the British Open last summer at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s to lose a heartbreaker to Ernie Els.

Fate gave Scott a second chance, and he performed brilliantly under pressure. Angel Cabrera came as close as anybody possibly could to raining on Scott’s parade, but it was not to be.

When Scott, who had not had the best day putting, came to the final hole needing a 25-footer to birdie, he calmly knocked in what appeared to be the winning putt. At this point, his emotions went over the top. The exuberance and high-fiving with his caddy made you wonder if he would be able to settle down and compete if a playoff developed.

It reminded one of the 1995 British Open, when Italian pro Costantino Rocca chilly dipped an approach shot on the 18th hole at St. Andrews and then knocked his ball into the cup from off the green to force a playoff with John Daly.

Immediately, Rocca exulted with a celebratory scream. He fell on the ground and pounded his fists with glee. He then went out and performed miserably in the playoff, allowing Daly to win easily. Scott’s emotions were not that elevated, but his reaction was over the top on the final hole.

When the twosome got to the second playoff hole, No. 10, you could see that Scott had calmed down and matched Cabrera shot for shot.  When Cabrera’s third shot — appearing to be headed for the hole — left him inches away for a par putt, Scott drained his 15-footer for birdie and a green jacket.

In reflecting on the topical conversation following the tournament, you realize that Scott was able to make the shots under pressure that his mentor, Greg Norman, was unable to make. Norman was runner-up three times at Augusta.

Scott is now the toast of Australia as the first from his country to win the Masters.



Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at loransmith@sports.uga.edu.