In another of our flashback interviews from past bunkered interviews, our correspondent back in 2002, Jock MacVicar, sits with a 22-year-old Adam Scott. "I want to be like Greg Norman," says the young Aussie. "I want to be up there alongside Tiger Woods," he adds. It seems the 2013 Masters champion has come a long way in those eleven years.
Interview Jock MacVicar
Photos Getty Images
Two days after his 22nd birthday Adam Scott will strike his first competitive ball at Muirfield. It will be only his third Open Championship and the previous month in New York he will have played in his very first US Open. Yet there are those around the game, many of them well informed and not prone to hyperbole, who will tell you that here is a golfer, who, even at this tender age, cannot be ignored in the highest company.
He turned professional only two years ago. But already he has won twice on the PGA European tour, claimed a place in the top 50 in the world rankings and in his first US Masters in April further signalled his progress by finishing ninth in a tournament which has a history of putting young “upstarts” in their place.
Adam Scott is no upstart. He is a polite, well brought up young man, with, as it happens, an English grandfather and a Welsh grandmother. But his ambition is as vast as the country of his birth, Australia. He also knows Tiger Woods very well and is coached by Tiger’s mentor, Butch Harmon, not a bad combination when you are striving to become golf’s next megastar.
“I want to be up there alongside Tiger. That’s my goal,” said Adam, when I caught up with him during the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth. “Young players like Charles Howell and myself like to think we will be able to have a good shot at him in a couple of years’ time.”
Considering he is still only 21, the story of how Adam Scott has reached this stage in his golfing maturity is already one with many chapters.
“I first had a club in my hand when I was three or four years old. I can’t quite remember,” he said. “I got my first handicap – 27 – at 11 and I was down to 12 the following year.” By 14 he was off three and was scratch at 15.
He had been fully 10 years under the guidance of his father, Phil, a golf professional. But now the career he would follow was clear, a professional golfer on the global scale.
Having a professional golfer as a father helped enormously in the formative years, and so did the environment in which he lived. Born at Hope Island on Australia’s sun-scorched Gold Coast, he never had to contend with poor weather. He could swim and jet-ski to his heart’s content, and also he had access to some of the country’s finest golf courses, including Hope Island Resort and Sanctuary Cove.
Soon the trophies began to pile into the Scott household. By 1997 he was the junior champion of both Australia and New Zealand and in the same year he came to Scotland and won the Doug Sanders Junior Championship at Newmachar.
Adam Scott on meeting Butch Harmon
However, if he was to have the opportunity to realise his enormous potential, he and his dad knew he had to leave Australia on a more permanent basis. And so he was enrolled at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
It didn’t work out. “I was there for only 15 months,” he said. “I quite enjoyed the studying, but I didn’t get on very well with the golf coach at the time. I didn’t like the way the golf programme was carried out.”
Enter Tom Craw, a representative with Cobra Golf, who introduced the young Adam Scott to Vegas resident, Butch Harmon, a month before the youngster was due to quit college and return home. As with Butch and Tiger, it proved to be a combination made in heaven.
“Butch has been fantastic,” says Adam. “I was very lucky to have had that introduction. Butch is one of the best coaches in the world. At the time I went to him, he had done great things with Tiger, Greg Norman and a whole bunch of other players. He lifted my game to another level.”
There are those who insist that, in terms of the golf swing, he is a Tiger clone. Such a comparison – especially as it is made so frequently – might irritate some people. But Adam, built on similar lines to Woods and just as lithe and powerful, is happy to hear such statements and carry on regardless.
“I think I swing the club my way,” he says. “If other people think I swing it like Tiger, then, fine. I’ve got used to it.”
Probably he is more than a little flattered at the comparison with a player he has yet to be drawn with in competition but frequently plays during practice for a tournament or during weeks off.
I think I swing the club my way. If other people think I swing it like Tiger, then, fine. I’ve got used to it - Adam Scott on his Tiger-like swing
“Every time I partner Tiger, or see him play, I learn something new from him,” says Adam. “I realise I have a lot of catching up to do. There is a lot of hard work ahead of me.”
Having won the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa last season and again in Qatar this year, Scott is eager to win for a third, fourth, fifth time, perhaps even a major.
“I’m not one to throw numbers into the air, but I’d love to be in the top 20 in the world rankings by the end of this season,” he says. “I have a way to go, but I don’t think it is an unreasonable goal.
“All parts of my game are at a good level now. It is a matter of constant work and improving all round. Those who want to be up there with Tiger Woods have to really commit themselves.
“For the moment I believe the others among the top 10 in the world rankings have the best chance of catching him, the Mickelsons, the Duvals, the Els etc. I don’t believe they are overawed by him. I just think that, so far, they are not bringing their best game against him.
“Don’t forget that they do beat him on occasions. But, to do it on a more regular basis, they have to be at their very best. That’s what the likes of Charles Howell and I will be trying to do in two years’ time, I hope.
“Another goal I have set myself is to contend in a major this year. If I could get up to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon and feel the pressure of that, it would be a big step forward.”
Adam Scott on his boyhood 'idol'
Woods is not Scott’s only idol. He would dearly love to emulate his fellow countryman, Greg Norman.
“Yes, I want to be like Greg Norman,” he says. “Every clubhouse you go into in Europe, you see his name up there on the wall as a champion. His name is everywhere in Europe.
“Greg won 17 times in Europe before going full-time in the United States in 1983. I’d like to do that, to continue establishing myself in Europe as a winner.
“I’m really focused on winning more in Europe and better establishing myself over here. That’s something Greg did so well before eventually going to the States.
Yes, I want to be like Greg Norman. Every clubhouse you go into in Europe, you see his name up there on the wall as a champion. His name is everywhere - Adam Scott on his hero
“I want to gain the sort of experience he had over here. That’s why, barring something major happening, I’ll continue playing here for the remainder of this season and again next season.”
To that end Adam has bought an apartment near Sunninghill in Surrey and he has a European girlfriend, Marie from Sweden, who travels with him to most tournaments.
“I enjoy it here,” he says. “I have been made very welcome in Europe and by the European tour and its players. It’s a very friendly atmosphere. You can sit down with any guy on this tour and have your lunch. That is very appealing.
“It’s pretty mean in America. Over there I’m not so sure they’re willing to help you as much as the guys over here. There’s a lot of money at stake and everybody is very single-minded. It’s pretty cut-throat, but that’s fine. It makes for good tournaments and good competition.
“I finished up near the top of the leaderboard in the Houston Open two weeks before the Masters at Augusta. That was an important step for me. Now I know I can play at the top everywhere.”
As for the Open Championship at Muirfield, he concedes that he needs a lot more experience of links golf.
“As an amateur I did play a number of Open roster courses, like Turnberry and Carnoustie,” he says. “I’ve also played Prestwick, Western Gailes, Royal Aberdeen and Kingsbarns, as well as Gleneagles, Loch Lomond and Newmachar. But Muirfield will be new to me. I need to play more links golf.”
Not surprisingly, in the weeks and months before turning professional in June 2000, after finishing sixth in the Benson & Hedges at the Belfry, Scott was pursued by a posse of potential managements companies.
At first it looked as if Chubby Chandler’s British-based ISM would win the race, but in the end the giant International Management Company of Mark McCormack secured his signature. IMC doesn’t miss many of those with something special in their make-up.
While Scott is content for the moment at least to play and live in Europe, he does miss the sunshine and the opportunity to jet-ski in the calm, blue waters off Australia’s Gold Coast.
How does he while away the time between tournaments? “I’ve taken to doing a bit of culture stuff, visiting art galleries, museums and various other exhibitions in London,” he explained. “It’s a bit different for me, and there is so much here I might as well take advantage of it.
“I even went recently to an exhibition of dead bodies in Brick Lane. It was called “Body World’ and, in a way, it was quite interesting, but not something you would choose to go to just after lunch!”
Though just short of his 22nd birthday, Scott already has travelled widely and is well qualified to name his favourite golf course in the world.
“It would have to be Cypress Point in California,” he says. “It’s a fantastic place and a fantastic course.
“But, if I was to pick a course in Europe, it would be the Old Course at St Andrews. I played it at the Open in 2000 and again last year at the Dunhill Links Trophy. I love it. It’s so very enjoyable, and so very different. I’d never get bored with it.”
It is no longer possible but, if Adam had a tee-time at Cypress Point or at the Old Course, he is in no doubt who he would invite to make up a fourball.
“My first pick would have been the late Ben Hogan,” he says. “I’d also invite my dad, because we don’t get many chances to play together any more, and the fourth man would be Greg Norman.”
By the time this magazine is published, Adam Scott will have played in 11 events on the European tour this season – already the minimum to retain
membership – and he will be preparing for his first US Open at Bethpage State Park, New York. On his return he will warm up for the Open at Muirfield in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
Some players prepare for the Open in other ways. Tiger Woods usually plays links courses in Ireland, while Bernhard Langer often takes himself off to some quiet and secluded practice area well away from the milling throng.
Scott will play in the Scottish Open because, as he says, “Players can quickly adjust their game for links golf the following week.” He also makes the point that Loch Lomond is a major event in its own right and he wants to be there.
Thirty-five years ago Greg Norman came to these shores and won the Martini International at Blairgowrie. It was the launch of a fabulous career which saw him win nearly 80 tournaments internationally, including two Open Championships.
How fitting it would be if Adam Scott, the young man who would be king, were to perform with similar skill at Loch Lomond and Muirfield.