Scott and McIlroy: Masterful Damage Control in the Aussie Open

Adam Scott descended into mediocrity a couple of times during the third round of the Emerites Australian Open. Just like the rest of us, when he got into the meat of the round, he couldn’t hit a fairway. Now that’s not the truth necessarily, it just looked that way because he had been so on top of his game until Saturday. And after his round he acknowledged that it hadn’t been his best.

But the difference between him and us is that our scores would have been blown into oblivion and he shot 4-under 68 with six birdies.

Rory McIlroy had such a tough start, he made the much anticipated matchup in the last group with Scott seem anti-climactic. His tee shot on the par-5 2nd hole was so deep in the lush foliage left of the fairway, the camera could barely make him out in there. He and his caddie talked over an escape route for quite some time. There was no place to take an unplayable and it was a long walk back to the tee to face the same risk. 

When he finally decided how he wanted to play it, it was against his caddie’s last well thought out and ardent suggestion. There was serious doubt about how far he could advance it on his line. Just how long would it take him to return to the sunlight? He could be in there forever, his tournament ruined.

He flatted a sand wedge out of there that he hit so good — he didn’t even have a backswing — the ball skittered all the way across the fairway and into the crowd. He hit a layup shot short of the green, hit it on the green and made the putt for par. One of the very few people in the world who could have done that.

He did make bogey on 4, but it was the double bogey on 5 that surely should have killed his round. He’d missed the green into the short, right swale and then waved at a couple of difficult pitch shots trying to be too delicate.

But just like Adam Scott, he didn’t allow those show-stopping holes to get in the way of what he knew he could do; he just pressed on, not looking back. We know this because he went on to make four birdies on 7, 10, 13 and 14 with no other damage to the card. And just missed a short one on 18 that didn’t break when he thought it would. Scott made his to stretch his lead to four.

If Scott just plays decent on Sunday, his 8-shot lead on third place pretty much protects him from anybody but McIlroy. So on Sunday we will have that same dream matchup again, this time with a little less drama. McIlroy certainly has the horsepower to shoot 7-under — he had one in the second round — but can he after Saturday’s rickety effort? Perhaps Saturday helped him sort it out and he’ll be torrid on Sunday.

And of course Scott has already proven that he’s operating in high gear even with his mistakes. It’s pretty hard to bet against 23 birdies in three rounds and 62, 70, 68.

The weather will be sunny and in the 70s with breezes 10 to 15 miles per hour.

And once again, the Golf Channel will have the broadcast at 8 PM Eastern.

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