SAN FRANCISCO – Back in March, Adam Scott rolled in a 40-footer for birdie on the 18th green at TPC Sawgrass to complete a 2-under-par 70 in the first round of The Players Championship.
Then COVID-19 shut down the PGA Tour and the rest of professional golf.
Scott hasn’t played since.
The easygoing and friendly Aussie packed up his family and flew to his homeland to hunker down. Concerns about the global pandemic, reservations about international travel and doubts about safety protocols in place when the PGA Tour returned in June slowed Scott’s roll back to competitive golf.
He even contemplated “calling it a season.”
“It was very difficult watching news and trying to get information not being in the United States,” he said this week. “There’s a lot of beat up in some of the news.”
And he was having such a good time Down Under – thoroughly enjoying his extended time with his family, celebrating his 40th birthday, re-connecting with long-time mates, kicking back and relaxing.
“It had been probably 20 years since I’d been home in Australia at that time of year and for that length of time I hadn’t been there, and I certainly enjoyed that very much, given whatever restrictions we were still under,” he said. “I think the break in some ways is going to prolong my career. You don’t get that break; the seasons kind of bleed into each other now, and I’ve got events in Australia to play. There’s no great breaks, and this from a career and a playing sense was a great break.”
But the major championships lured him to break out the clubs again and get back to his day job. When the re-schedule was finally completed and Scott learned that three majors would be played this year, he eventually decided his break was over.
“Once the majors were planned to go ahead, I really selfishly could have missed them,” he said. “At the start of this interview I mentioned how the majors are so important to a player’s career, and that’s what I’m looking to do now, so I never really seriously considered skipping this week.”
This week is the 102nd edition of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Next month is the U.S. Open. November brings the Masters. As of right now, Scott is planning on staying in the states to compete in all three.
The 2013 Masters champion who is ranked No. 9 in the world returned to the States and quarantined and started knocking off rust at Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina. Since arriving at the City by the Bay, he’s played rounds at TPC Harding Park this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then again Tuesday.
“I don’t really think I’ve missed anything in the sense of preparation from competing,” said Scott, who is playing in his 21st PGA Championship. He’s had six top-10s but “never put four rounds together.” But he is the record holder for most rounds of 65 or better (4) in the PGA Championship.
Thus, the winner of 31 titles worldwide – including 14 on the PGA Tour, among them the Masters, two World Golf Championships victories, the 2004 Players Championship and the 2006 Tour Championship – is not sweating not playing for so long heading into the first major of the year, even if he’s only played three competitive rounds since the first week of March (he missed the cut in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then played one round in The Players).
First of all, Scoot’s cool demeanor rarely makes him sweat anything. And he’s won off long layoffs before, most recently when he closed out his 2019 campaign by winning the Australian PGA Championship, then, seven weeks later, began his 2020 campaign by winning the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club north of Los Angeles.
“Just the same as any other week,” Scott said of the challenges of playing a major after a long layoff. “It’s really just executing. This golf course this week, the way it’s set up, is going to demand a little more of everybody and their game and penalties are more harsh. You can hit some pretty good tee balls that might just end up in the rough and you’re going to draw a lie that you can’t get it on the green and you’re scrambling. That’s going to be the biggest test, how sharp is my scrambling probably.
“But I think I’ve tried to prepare like I would for any other event, and I feel like there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be good enough.”