Twice a runner-up, Adam Scott ready for first major win

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Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

There's only one way ESPN's Tom Rinaldi asks a question -- in hushed tones.

So Tuesday at Augusta National, when Rinaldi asked Adam Scott what he learned about himself from his runner-up finishes at the Masters in 2011 and British Open in 2012, it was easy to imagine the soft piano music that would accompany Scott's answer.

Unfailingly polite and composed, Scott reminded Rinaldi, in the nicest way possible, that he didn't lose the Masters two years ago. With a historic finish, Charl Schwartzel won it with birdies on the final four holes to overtake Scott.

"I've watched a lot of Masters, seen a lot of finishes," Scott told reporters. "When you [have] a one-shot lead on 17 and you make two fours, that usually puts you somewhere in a playoff or maybe a win, but it wasn't even close."

The Masters
First round
When » Thursday, 3 p.m.
Where » Augusta National,
Augusta, Ga.
TV » ESPN

Two years later, Scott, 32, is among a group of players often referred to the best never to win a major. The list includes Sergio Garcia, 33; Luke Donald, 35; Lee Westwood, 39; and Steve Stricker, 46.

None of them wear the moniker as well as Scott. The affable Australian never appears flustered by his failures or shies from talking about them. The way he handled his collapse last year at the British Open, where he led by four shots with four holes left, won him fans. It was reminiscent of the way another Aussie, Greg Norman, dealt with his pratfall at the 1996 Masters.

As a 15-year-old in Australia, Scott famously skipped school that day to watch his idol play at Augusta. He cried when Nick Faldo came from six shots back to win. But there were no tears last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, when Scott analytically relived his bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey finish.

"I don't want to lose anymore, but it's inevitable if you contend a lot," Scott said on Tuesday. "The first one that I really had my hands on, I let it go, so that will be something that I'll never want to do again."

Scott has won eight times on the PGA Tour and seven on the European Tour, but for a decade, he never seriously contended for a major as he struggled on the greens. After switching to a long putter, however, Scott has finished in the top 15 in six of the last eight major championships.

"It's the consistency with it that makes me putt that way," Scott said of his increased confidence now on the greens.

Three of the last five winners of majors have used long putters -- Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (2012 British Open).

The Masters provides a great opportunity for Scott. He is sixth on the tour in driving distance at 302.9 yards, and his high ball flight is tailor made for the hard, fast greens of Augusta National, where no Australian has ever won.

"The last couple years has certainly shown dramatic improvement in my results in majors," Scott said. "I feel like I've got all of the boxes ticked and it's down to execution. A couple of times, I felt like I executed well enough to win and didn't, and that could be just golf or it could be something else that I haven't quite got yet, I don't know."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner