A decade after they said he was the next Tiger Woods, Adam Scott’s starting to play like the Tiger of yesteryear.
For whatever reason — perhaps maturity given that he’s always been a sublime ballstriker — Scott has taken a long time to realize his potential and consistently contend at majors.
But he’s ready now.
After famously becoming the first Australian to win a green jacket in the spring, Scott’s showing he’s not going to be content with just one major.
Neither is he going to let failure set him back.
A few weeks ago he held the lead at the British Open on the back nine on Sunday.
But, like his boyhood hero Greg Norman, coronation turned into crucifixion when Scott went on a run of four straight bogeys and Phil Mickelson made a magnificent charge.
It was the second straight year he’d thrown away the claret jug and a second kick in the guts might’ve taken its toll.
But the 33-year-old isn’t feeling sorry for himself, nor hiding in some corner, licking his wounds.
He responded to Muirfield on a sunny if rain-interrupted Thursday at Oak Hill with what they call a “stripe show”; putting on a ball-striking clinic.
“I felt good out there today,” Scott said.
“I felt like I could swing freely and I was hitting all the shots that I wanted to hit.”
Scott turned in one of his finest rounds, shooting a 5-under 65 at Oak Hill to grab a share of the lead — along with veteran Jim Furyk — at the PGA Championship.
“When you get something going for you in a major, sometimes you have got to not be afraid to get out of your own way and let go, and I did that,” he said.
Playing with this year’s other major winners, Mickelson — whose up-and-down round added up to a 71 — and Justin Rose, who said he fed off Scott’s good play to card a 68, Scott began nervously.
He needed to punch out from under trees on the first and then saved par from about 80 yards. He scratched out two more pars before getting in a groove, making five straight birdies from the fourth hole.
“Probably the best run I’ve ever had,” he said.
“It was a dream start after kind of a nervous first couple of holes.”
The mid-afternoon delay to accommodate an electrical storm with plenty of rain seemed to stall Scott, who played the final six holes in even par.
But it was interesting to hear him say that the highlight of the round wasn’t his six birdies, but the par save he made from the fairway on the last hole.
“After playing so well, I was starting to feel it slip coming in on the last three holes,” he said.
“And then to make one on 18 and get something out of the round that I felt could have been special was a nice feeling.”
It was, dare it be said, Tiger-esque; the sort of performance Woods turned in regularly in his pomp.
Tiger-esque, however, was beyond Tiger on this day.
Where Scott heroically saved par on the last, Woods managed to make the clumsiest of double bogeys on his final hole.
He signed for a 1-over round of 71 yet afterward curiously spoke as if he were in the mix instead of tied for 50th.
“I played really well today,” he insisted.
“The round realistically could have been under par, easily.”
And it could’ve just as easily been worse.
Woods got up-and-down on seven of the nine greens he missed and made only two birdies.
He appeared to lose momentum when he missed a short birdie putt on the second, his 11th hole of the day. He later blamed the miss on the fact that his group was put on the clock for being slow.
“Stuffed it at 2, tricky little putt,” he said.
“Probably should have taken a little bit longer, but we were on the clock and had to get going, so ended up blocking the putt.”
A curious explanation given Woods isn’t one to rush if it doesn’t suit him.
Although he’s six shots back, he wasn’t waving any white flags.
“I’m still right there,” he said.
“We have got a long way to go.”
That’s true in a sense, but not in another.
Woods has won each of his 14 majors from the front.
He’s not going to win this one by playing conservatively and hoping the leaders will come back to him.
There are simply too many good players above him and the course isn’t likely to get firm enough to make it treacherous.
So, if this is to be major number 15, and the first in more than five years, he’s going to have to attack; he’ll have to go low.