Golf

Rejuvenated Scott targets top ranking

Adam Scott, right, likes the direct approach of caddie Steve Williams, left.
Sports Xchange Tom LaMarre
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Australia continues to wait for the next Greg Norman.

The Aussie faithful had almost turned away from one-time boy wonder Adam Scott in favor of new young gun Jason Day, until Scott seemingly turned his career back in the right direction the past two years.

DUSTIN JOHNSON AND PAULINA GRETZKY

TROPHY WAGs

For some golfers, the biggest prizes aren't their tournament wins but their wives and girlfriends.

"I'm feeling pretty good about what is in store for me," Scott wrote on his blog recently at adamscott.com. "I was generally happy with my form throughout 2011, and I'm confident I will do better this year. I'm going to have to do better because there sure are a lot of guys on Tour now who know how to play, and know how to win."

Scott will make his 2012 debut this week in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades, Calif., after a long break. Once No. 3 in the World Golf Ranking, Scott played miserably from the middle of 2008, after winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship for his sixth PGA Tour victory, until he captured the Valero Texas Open in 2010.

In 2009, he missed 10 cuts in 19 events on the US circuit, including six in a row and 10 of 13 at one point.

Some say the comeback began when Norman, captain of the International team, picked his struggling protege for the 2009 Presidents Cup in San Francisco. Scott, who was planning to shut it down for the year in October, played respectably at Harding Park and has been on the upswing since.

"(Scott) is one of best ball-strikers out there, but he struggled with his confidence for a while," Chris DiMarco told pgatour.com. "Now that he's got it back, it's just the tip of the iceberg.

"He is going to get better and better every year."

The 31-year-old Aussie already was playing better, including a tie for second at the Masters last April, after he left longtime instructor Butch Harmon for Australian Brad Malone, his brother-in-law, and parted ways with longtime caddie Tony Navarro.

When outspoken caddie Steve Williams became available on a part-time basis after Tiger Woods was injured in the Masters, Scott picked him up. How Williams became Scott's full-time looper is a long and messy story that has been well-documented.

Harmon and Navarro are very good at their jobs and well respected in the game, but perhaps Scott simply needed to make some changes.

"Diplomatic is not in his vocabulary," Scott said simply of Williams, who has caddied for major champions Woods, Norman, Peter Thomson, Raymond Floyd and Ian Baker-Finch and hopes to help add that missing piece to Scott's résumé.

Whatever it was, Scott flourished in the second half of last year, which included another change, when one of the better ball-strikers in the game turned to the long putter.

In addition to claiming perhaps the biggest victory of his career when he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he finished seventh in the PGA Championship, tied for third in the AT&T National, tied for eighth in the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied for sixth in the Tour Championship.

By the end of the year, he was back up to No. 7 in the ranking and thinking the sky's the limit.

"I'm not that far away (from No. 1)," said Scott, who won the 2004 Players Championship and the 2006 Tour Championship. "I know Luke (Donald) has a pretty good lead on No. 2 at the moment.

"With consistent play over the next year, I believe that No. 1 is certainly attainable. It is the first time in my career as a professional that it has been realistic for me.

"For nine years, no one played at the level Tiger played at. He is slightly off, but he is on his way back, it seems. It is a good time for me to take advantage of that and hopefully beat him to the punch."

Said Norman: "He knows he is one of the top guys in the world. He has taken that responsibility on."

Tiger Woods

OUT FOR NO. 1

It's been an up and down season for Tiger. Where does he sit in GolfWeek's rankings?

Scott made the Presidents Cup team on his own merit last year and played better than his 2-3 record in November at Royal Melbourne. He teamed with K.J. Choi to rout Woods and Steve Stricker 7 and 6 before beating Phil Mickelson in singles 2 and 1.

"My game is, on a whole, better than it's ever been in my career," Scott said during his long stay Down Under. "I feel like every week for a while now, I've been walking out there and putting myself in a position where I can win."

Having spent nearly two months at home in Australia since he tied for fourth in both the Australian Open and the Australian PGA, he hopes to shake off the rust quickly at Riviera, where he won an unofficial title in 2005 by beating Chad Campbell in a one-hole playoff after the tournament was shortened to 36 holes by rain.

The first day of the Australian PGA late last year illustrates the confidence Scott claims Williams has helped instill in him. He started the first round on No. 10, hit three balls into the water in the first five holes and was 5-over par en route to shooting 40 on the back nine.

Instead of thinking about how he was going to spend the weekend with his girlfriend, tennis star Ana Ivanovic, Scott got his game in gear with seven birdies in the final 10 holes to salvage a 2-under 70.

The Aussies watching have seen this before. It was Norman-esque.

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Greg Norman, Ian Baker-Finch, Ian Baker Finch

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