It was six years ago when Adam Scott held his arms aloft in the rain after defeating Angel Cabrera in a gripping playoff on a rainy evening in Georgia, finally completing his lifelong dream of claiming a major championship.
Since then, Scott’s star has been on the wane, and he’s seen a new breed of youngsters come along and shake the game up, leaving the Australian to lurk in their shadows.
Scott currently sits 29th in the Official World Golf Ranking, a far cry from his position of third following his moment of glory at Augusta, and then his subsequent rise to the summit of the game in 2014.
However, his current position of 29th is up 12 places from where he found himself at the end of 2018, and a rise of 31 spots from where he stood this time 12 months ago. Scott’s stock is on the rise once again.
Speaking to the Augusta Chronicle last month, Scott spoke both confidently and optimistically about where his game is right now ahead of the year’s opening major, saying
“I feel I’m on top of my game, just at that point for me to go out and execute it. I’ve done the work, and I will do work before I get there, I’ll be ready. I’ve got a good plan. I’m very confident that I’ll be ready to play there.”
The 38-year-old heads to Augusta National under the radar, with talk of Rory McIlroy’s Grand Slam destiny, Tiger Woods’ quest for number 15, and Rickie Fowler’s fresh assault at major glory all dominating the narrative ahead of next week. But Scott’s confidence concerning his chances of becoming a multiple Masters champion is anything but bravado.
Scott has featured in the final group twice in his last five events he has played this year on Tour, and all departments of his game look sharp. In fact, over the previous 12 rounds of every player in next week’s field, Scott is just one of two men who rank inside the top-25 in every significant strokes gained category. Rory McIlroy is the other.
Even putting, you ask? Yes, even putting, which has been a nemesis for the Australian throughout his career.
The improvement in Scott’s putting has been drastic, and one of the primary reasons for this improvement is due to the option players now have of leaving the flagstick in the hole while on the putting surface this year. Scott has previously stated how the new regulation has changed the entire dynamic and art of putting and speaking in the same interview with the Augusta Chronicle; the 2013 Masters Champion had this to say on the current strength of his putting.
“I feel like on shorter putts when the pin is in I have a nice reference point of the exact middle of the hole and something to aim against. I’m not trying to hit putts harder and smash it into the pin, and it’s just more of a reference of aim, but I have putted better, and I think if I were to hit one too hard, I doubt I would hit one so hard that it bounces out from short range.”
So just how much improvement has Scott made on the greens since the USGA’s rule 13.2a(2) change? Well, the Australian has gained strokes over the field on the greens in every event he has played in so far this year. It’s a run of six successive positive weeks with the flat-stick for Scott, a feat he has never before achieved in his career.
The 38-year-old stands T17 for strokes gained: putting this season. To put that improvement into perspective, Scott has failed to finish a year inside the top-100 in this area since 2014, and last year, the 13-time winner on the PGA Tour finished T165 for strokes gained putting.
Scott’s current confidence with the flat-stick in hand has even led him to possess three different options on the greens, all of which he appears hugely comfortable with, as he explained just a couple of weeks ago
“What I feel like is I have three incredibly good ways to putt with three incredibly good putters. I can either kind of float the broomstick or I can arm lock or I can do some kind of claw short putter with a very stable putter head.”
The Australian won the 2013 Masters while anchoring the putter, a component of the game which at the time had not yet been outlawed, and it appears as if the new flagstick regulation has benefited Scott more so than any other player in next week’s field.
The man who is often described as having one of the best swings in golf has unsurprisingly finished inside the top-20 for strokes gained tee to green in eight of the last nine years on the PGA Tour. What’s more, Scott has recently proved to himself that he still has it in him to compete for the biggest prizes in the game, going toe to toe with Brooks Koepka on Sunday at the 2018 PGA Championship.
There are arguably, just a dozen players who will honestly believe they can slip on the green jacket on Sunday, April 14, with experience, skill level and knowledge of the course having more of an impact at Augusta National than any other course players will compete at all year.
Crucially, Scott has done it all before, and with a new regulation stirring life into a man who looked destined to end his major career tally on one, Adam Scott is once again within that select group of players who know that they possess the ability to triumph on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.
The Wedge Guy: The Red Zone
For those of you who are big football fans, we are lost in the off-season, waiting a few more months before we get to watch our favorite pro or college teams duke it out on the gridiron. Living in Texas, of course, football is a very big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.
In almost every football conversation on TV, you hear talk about “the red zone”. How a team performs inside the 20-yard line is a real measure of their offensive prowess, and usually a pretty good indicator of their win/loss record, too. It breaks down to what percentage of the time a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and how often they come away empty.
I like to think we golfers have our own “red zone”. It’s that distance from the green where we should be able to go on the offensive and think about pars and birdies, ensure no worse than bogey . . . and rarely put a double or worse on the card. Your own particular set of red zone goals should be based on your handicap. If you are a low single digit, this is your “go zone”, where you feel like you can take it right at the flag and give yourself a decent birdie putt, with bogeys being an unpleasant surprise. For mid-handicap players, it’s where you should feel confident you’ll guarantee a par and rarely make bogey, and for higher handicap players, it’s where you will ensure a bogey at least, give yourself a good chance at par, and maybe even a birdie.
But regardless of your handicap, your own “red zone” should begin when you can put a high loft club in your hands – one with over 40 degrees of loft. Of course, that has changed a lot with the continual strengthening of irons. In my early days that was an eight iron, then it migrated to a nine. But regardless of your handicap or the make and model of irons you play, my contention is that golf is relatively “defensive” with all the other clubs in your bag. With those lower lofted irons, your goal should be to just keep it out of trouble and moving closer to the goal line . . . er, the flag. Even the PGA Tour pros make a very small percentage of their birdies with their middle irons.
When you can put a high loft club in your bag – whether that’s from 150 yards or 105 – that’s when you should feel like you can put your offense into high gear and raise your expectations. It’s no longer about power, because this isn’t about raw distance, but rather distance control and precision. From the red zone, it’s about trusting your technique and your equipment and taking it to the golf course a little bit.
As most of us are in the early stages of the 2021 golf season, one of the best things you can do for your golf improvement is to begin tracking your “red zone” performance. Put the numbers down as to how you are scoring the golf course from your 9-iron range on into the flag. My guess is that you’ll see this is where you can make the most improvement if you’ll give that part of your game some additional time and focus. Any golfer can learn to hit crisp and accurate short range approach shots. And so you should.
Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you’ll see your scores come down quickly.
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