Adam Scott got off to a great start Thursday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, shooting the low round of the day, 6-under 66, along with co-leader Jason Dufner. These were exceptional rounds because the day was festooned with blustery winds and rain squalls that blew across the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami.
Playing with red-hot, Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson, he made their difficulties seem trivial. Mahan shot 1-under and Phil was Even.
Later the media tried to get at why he had been so successful…and surprisingly, they got some great answers out of him, answers that delved into the principles of mastery.
It began with them wondering where he’d been since the Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago:
I was practicing last week in San Diego. I stayed in the West Coast after Match Play, which is always nice over there, I like it. And you know, I was playing — I thought I played well in L.A. considering I’ve had such a long break and usual [bad finish] in Arizona for me. Didn’t get too disheartened by that, because I wasn’t playing that bad. Just kept working away at it. And this is the time of year when you want to start putting the numbers on the board. I’ve left my run a little late but it seems to be working out.
They asked him if he was trying to replicate his successful regimen from last year where he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, was T2 at the Masters and finished T3 at Tiger’s AT&T National:
I don’t think I can try and replicate it exactly. It’s hard to repeat that performance I think. But I’m just trying to get myself — keep myself fresh and have myself ready, also, at the same time for the biggest events of the year, and that certainly starts here, I believe, until the end of September.
So you know, at the moment, I’m fresh. I think I’m getting close to being really ready. It’s important I think when you’re playing a schedule like I’m planning, that you put yourself in the tournament and you get a taste of contention and you just see where your game’s really at, because that’s when you find out whether the practice you’re doing and everything is right, when you’re under pressure.
Scott is known for his GQ good looks and proclivities for such things as surfing, so someone wanted to know just how hard he was working since he doesn’t play every week.
When you play a slightly reduced schedule from other people, you have to be hard enough to be disciplined when you work at home. That’s something I kind of adopted last year and I found just as much satisfaction in the process and the practice as I get out of any result.
And that’s what I felt last year. I enjoyed the practice as much as any result I had last year, so I do enjoy going home and spending hours on the range and the chipping green and the putting green. I feel that’s the balance that I need to perform the best. So that’s the way of going about it.
He was asked if, even though he had a great practice week in San Diego, was he concerned about coming in with a little rust on his game?
Less so than going to L.A. L.A., I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to get but it wasn’t bad. It was fairly solid. I worked hard for four days and at least posted a decent score. It was a little bit, but last week I felt like I had really good sessions on the range and my swing really freed up.
I just had to go out there and get the same feelings, and I knew a good score was going to happen because every part of my game was feeling good. Again, you’ve got to take away the expectation and just let it happen, but I wasn’t too concerned.
And then we got a glimpse into what a Tour player’s swing feels like when he was asked what he meant by, “freed up?”
Well, for me, freed up just means that the ball gets in the way of the club. You are just not forcing anything down at impact. The body is releasing; the club head is releasing the way you want it and there’s no real forced motion at impact and it just feels very free and natural through the ball. And so that comes when you’re swinging the club well. I think after a couple of weeks of play again at L.A. and the Match Play, that got the hesitation out and maybe the rust, like you say.
Scott was one of those young, “can’t miss” up-and-comers when he came out on Tour in his early 20s. And much like all impetuous youth, he took full advantage of it by rarely taking a week off. That, of course, has led to the burnout of many a young star and he was asked if he knew when he was flirting with burnout and how to avoid it.
I think so. Look, there’s no secret, I played a lot of tournaments all around the world for like ten years. I mean, that takes its toll. When you’re 21 it’s pretty easy to fly around the world nonstop and just go play and do everything you want to do but it’s different when you’re 31. So it catches up with you a little bit. So I just do what feels best for me now.
I’m out here with the goal to be the best player I can be and get the most out of my game. And you know, it seems to make sense to me to do what I need to do to do that. That’s this balance between playing and practice and being able to come out — if you starve a guy of playing a little bit, he’ll be desperate to compete. He’ll find a way to get in the mix, you know what I mean. And you know, I’m playing good; it’s hard not to play every week I feel like. But just starve me a little bit and I’ll find my way into contention (smiling).
With an eye towards a great ten-year run, he was asked what he learned last year that would help him.
I learned that I made a lot of good decisions last year I think regarding my golf game. I finally figured out a few things that I felt comfortable with. I was in a good head space all year with my golf. Certainly there’s always things to work on and things you don’t get right, but I think it’s all very manageable at the moment and just looking to improve. You have to keep that intensity.
And little things, like seeing Rory play two great weeks and ascend to No. 1 is inspiring. You know, I know it’s more than two great weeks for me, but geez, in a few months, it’s possible; Luke’s shown it’s possible, you get that level of consistency and you can become No. 1.
And in that same vein, he was asked what was the biggest thing he learned from his game.
I think overall, for a lot of different reasons, I learnt to trust my own instincts again. I was a good player when I was a junior, and I just played. I just pulled a club and hit it.
And you’ve got to have that when you’re out here, as well. There’s so much information and so much stuff going on, you’ve just got to go with your instincts, and that’s on how you feel, whether it’s a club or whether you think you should play that week or not.
Do you really want to play; you’ve got to ask yourself and you’ve got to find the real answer inside, and not for other people and not for other reasons other than what you really want. I think that’s how you get the best out of your game.
You can tell by the depth of his answers that he is at a level of exploration about himself that is leading him to higher and higher levels of mastery…like, say, being one of two guys to shoot a 66 in a wind tunnel at Doral.
These are the kinds of things that lead to true breakthroughs because they allow for the mind to step over the details of just how to go about hitting that 6-iron. That’s nowhere near as important as knowing the details of yourself.