Scott Looks to Write His Own U.S. Open Story

Adam Scott will have a familiar face on his bag at Chambers Bay this week in Steve Williams, who has come out of retirement to caddie for the 2013 Masters champion for the year's final three majors. (USGA/Fred Vuich)
Adam Scott will have a familiar face on his bag at Chambers Bay this week in Steve Williams, who has come out of retirement to caddie for the 2013 Masters champion for the year's final three majors. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – For a former world No. 1 and major champion, a tie for ninth place, 11 strokes behind the winner, would not normally be a cause for celebration. Yet Adam Scott had reason to be pleased when he finished the U.S. Open last year at Pinehurst No. 2.

It was Scott’s 13th U.S. Open, but his first top-10 finish in a championship in which he rarely has played well, missing six cuts. Scott broke par twice in North Carolina; he had bettered par only once before, a 69 in the first round at Bethpage Black in 2009.

“Maybe last year I snapped out of the doldrums in the event and maybe this year we go all the way,” Scott said Tuesday afternoon, prior to a practice round at Chambers Bay. “It kind of baffled me as to why my performance hadn’t been better. We worked really hard last year for the result, and it’s the same again here. The U.S. Open is challenging, and you’ve just got to put it all together.”

Scott played in his first U.S. Open in 2002 at Bethpage, shooting 77-80 to miss the cut. He didn’t play the final 36 holes until 2005 at Pinehurst No. 2. He didn’t crack the top 20 until shooting 70s the last three days in 2012 at The Olympic Club to earn a tie for 15th. In contrast to his U.S. Open struggles, Scott has four top-10s in each of the other majors, highlighted by his 2013 Masters title.

Currently No. 12 in the Official World Golf Ranking™, Scott, 34, was an early arrival to the U.S. Open’s first visit to the Pacific Northwest. By the time he tees off Thursday in the first round, he will be familiar with the character of the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design.

“It’s very different from what we’re used to playing, and it’s not your everyday golf course,” Scott said. “It’s taken a while to learn. But I’m accepting the challenge and am going to enjoy playing shots very differently than I normally do.”

The amiable Australian also will have a familiar figure on his bag.  New Zealander Steve Williams, who caddied for Scott from 2011 to 2014 –  including his Masters victory – has come out of retirement to work for Scott in the year’s three remaining majors.

“Absolutely he should be a help,” Scott said. “Our record speaks for itself in the major championships the last few years, and I think we both really feel we can add to that this week and for the rest of the summer. He’s here on a mission, and so am I. It’s a good feeling to have that same kind of atmosphere that I’ve been so successful with the last few years.”

No other caddie has enjoyed as much major success as Williams, who was with Tiger Woods for 13 of his 14 major titles. Williams doesn’t miss being a full-time caddie, but  is eager to reunite with Scott.

“I’ve enjoyed being away from it, no getting around that,” Williams said. “But it’s good to come out and caddie for a few weeks. I’m excited about it.”

Scott spent the first two months of the year away from competition to be with his wife, Marie, who had the couple’s first child, a daughter named Bo Vera, in February. Other than a tie for fourth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Scott has been held back by poor putting in 2015, his tie for 38th at the Masters indicative of his frustration.

While Scott is fifth on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, he is just 192nd in Strokes Gained: Putting. Scott’s putting has long been the weakest link in his otherwise sound game.  Going to the long putter has helped, but this season his putting has regressed.

“I have swung the club well all year,” said Scott, who has one of the most admired actions in golf. “I’ve putted poorly and that makes it hard to score really well at the top level. My results have been less than what I’ve wanted. But I’m trying to turn the corner with my putting, and that’s feeling good.”

Scott believes he has figured out something on the greens. “It was alignment-based,” he said. “I was aiming left. I identified that a couple of weeks back. It’s a matter of working on it on the putting green, getting comfortable with it and trusting it. There is a process to that, and I think the timing might be good for this week.”

It could be a good omen for Scott that Chambers Bay, like Pinehurst No. 2, isn’t a traditional-looking U.S. Open venue. “This sort of course has so many different ways to play it, many different ways to get around,” Williams said.

Scott contends Chambers Bay “is a ball-striker’s course.” That is true, but to be a significant part of the plot late on a Sunday afternoon for the first time in a U.S. Open, he is going to have to make some putts too.

If he does, Father’s Day, which is celebrated on the first Sunday of September in Australia instead of the third Sunday in June, will come a little early for Bo Vera’s dad.

Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.