MELBOURNE, Australia — Adam Scott has never been one to mince his words. The 2013 Masters winner calls it as he sees it, and he certainly did so on the final day of the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National.
The picturesque Liberty National course sits on the banks of the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, but the Internationals were marooned when they were boat-raced by a star-studded U.S. team. The final score read 19-11 to the home side, and it could have been worse. The Americans nearly won the thing before the singles matches even commenced.
Scott — dejected after suffering a seventh consecutive loss at the PGA Tour’s biennial team event — delivered a trademark zinger that perfectly summed up more than two decades of misery for the Internationals.
“It was a bit of a slaughtering,” he said at the time. “But we’ve got to stand up, take our a–whipping like men and walk out with our heads high.”
Scott was verbally drawing a line in the sand. He and his brethren were humiliated that the U.S. victory brought their Cup record to a glimmering 10-1-1.
The Aussie star debuted at the 2003 Cup in South Africa, playing his first match alongside his hero Ernie Els. That year, rival captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player agreed to call the Cup a tie when darkness prevented Els and Tiger Woods from playing more than three playoff holes. The teams couldn’t break the stalemate in regulation, or sudden-death.
The Internationals — a rest-of-the-world side minus Europe — have lost every edition since. Four in the U.S., one in Canada (2007), one in Australia (2011) and one in South Korea (2015). Their only victory came in 1998 when Royal Melbourne hosted its first Presidents Cup.
Scott’s career has seen some remarkable highs, despite a few well-documented Sunday slides at majors. He became the first Australian to win at Augusta National — his countrymen almost made him Prime Minister for that. He ascended to World No. 1, if briefly, in 2014. He has won a Players Championship and multiple World Golf Championships among his 13 PGA Tour titles.
But a Presidents Cup victory remains a gaping hole on his resume.
“It would mean so much to me to be on a winning team; it would be quite an achievement to turn it around,” Scott said.
Scott’s determination is partly rooted in his upbringing playing team sports like cricket. He misses the camaraderie golf seldom provides, but also wants to repay his debt for what the Cup has done for him.
At pivotal moments in his career, the Presidents Cup has lifted Scott when he most needed it. Like in 2003, when a young Scott combined with Els to win two matches and then K.J. Choi to claim another. Being thrown into the deep end as Els’ partner in his native South Africa was daunting, and Scott was chuffed with how well he performed. Scott credits that boost as vital to his win at TPC Sawgrass the following year.
“Playing with some of my idols growing up has been one of the most special things about the Presidents Cup,” Scott told GOLF.com. “Winning alongside Ernie made me feel like I belonged on the big stage. Absolutely, I drew upon that experience to win the Players the next year.”
The 2009 Cup, however, is far more important in Scott’s arc. That year remains the nadir of his career, when his usually silky swing deserted him as he plummeted from World No.3 in 2008 to No. 65 in October 2009 — courtesy of 10 missed cuts from 14 events.
Then came the call that turned everything around.
It was from Scott’s idol, Greg Norman — the two-time Open Championship winner whose influence on Scott was so profound that Scott paid tribute to him in his Butler Cabin interview, moments after his historic Masters win in 2013.
Given Scott’s woeful results in 2009, then International skipper Norman raised eyebrows when he handed his compatriot a captain’s pick for the event at Harding Park.
“Greg really put himself on the line to pick me in 2009,” Scott recalls. “I think I only won a point for him [in the Thursday foursomes]. But, for me, that kind of pressure brought out the weaknesses in my game and from there it was easy to work out how I could get my game back.”
A decade later, Scott is no longer searching for his game. Two runner-up results among nine top-10s on the PGA Tour this year have helped him climb back up the World Ranking to No. 18. But he is searching for his next title. His worldwide winless drought stretches back to early 2016, when Scott won in back-to-back starts during the Florida swing. He’s also had trouble finding that extra gear in contention at the majors, as was the case in the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open this year.
A Presidents Cup victory would do wonders for Scott as he approaches 40. And with stalwarts in Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman and Hideki Matsuyama — as well as newcomers like Cameron Smith, Abraham Ancer and Haotong Li — Scott believes his side could be the one to get the elusive win.
“We have a lot of young players,” Scott says. “I want to get the most out of them.”
“For me, a big goal this week is to play great, win the crowd over and get them inspired to cheer us home to a victory. Then, invite them to celebrate with us.”
What a party that would be.
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