Former world-number-one Adam Scott will make his 18th Open Championship this week at Royal Birkdale. The Aussie is off to relatively slow start this year, with no wins and only a handful of worldwide top-10s. But a Claret Jug is number one with a bullet on Scott’s career bucket list, and drinking some Mouton Rothschild 1982 from its silver on Sunday would make this a golden year for the 37-year-old. We caught up with Scott at New York’s Chelsea Piers driving range after his missed cut at the US Open to talk about his form this season, the long arc of a career, and the burden of style.
How did you come into the game of golf?
My family. My dad is a PGA member in Australia. My mom is a good player too, so maybe it was inevitable that I’d end up at a golf course. For sure I wasn’t pushed into it and I didn’t play that much until 11, maybe. I played all the other sports and eventually I gravitated toward golf and got hooked. Once I had a handicap and was competing with other kids at the club, I enjoyed that and wanted to be on the course. That’s just how it goes.
So what has been your most important professional moment up to this point?
Obviously winning the Master’s is fantastic for your career. It’s your dream, it’s the big achievement, and I don’t know if anything will ever overshadow that. But there are a couple key moments that should be part of the conversation. In 2009, I played poorly for six months. The trend was looking bad, like things were not getting better. I made a few big changes, and a few things kind of went my way. But it was really one shot specifically at the Singapore Open in 2009 on the 36th hole, I hit a 7-iron to tap in distance to make the cut on the number, which is such a confidence builder for any golfer, after you’ve been struggling for a while, to make a cut, it felt good! And then I had a really good weekend, finished 3rd and quickly went on to improve my form. I won the Australian Open a couple weeks later and then that just led on to other good things.
And there’s another moment like that in early 2011, where, I just found golf fun again. It’s such a frustrating game for everyone; it can put you through the ringer. I was playing in a six-ball in Hawaii with a bunch of mates, and for the first time in a few years, I just had fun playing golf and I thought "that’s the attitude I need to keep up." That was a big moment too, because you need those little bits of inspiration for any career. If you have a long career, you have ups and downs and you need those moments of inspiration.
When you’re experiencing a low point in your career, how do you go about adjusting your attitude after a loss or a missed cut?
Well you have to kind of give yourself an honest assessment of where things are at and from that you either say, "I need to make some changes," or "golf happens," and you just keep going with the plan that you had. You can’t fool yourself for too long in golf or it comes back to bite you. So coming off a disappointing performance, you’ve got to look at aspects of what you’re doing. Is this just an anomaly or is this a trend. Trainers and coaches and you need their opinion, they’re accountable for what they’re doing too and sometimes you know, the truth isn’t want you want to hear but you have to get better.
Where do you think you are at this moment? Are you reassessing or is it just "golf happens"?
Well, golf happens, unfortunately. As far as the US Open goes, it was a huge disappointment and a shock because my game was trending in such a good direction. And this happened — but there are things to learn from that, too. I definitely didn’t respond well out there. Internally when things were not going right, I just couldn’t right the ship quick enough. I applied more pressure to myself, rather than take it off. And that’s a position I don’t want to be in again.
You take an active roll in helping design the UNIQLO clothing you wear on the course, how do you start the conversation?
My angle of attacking the design was more from a functionality point of view. Obviously it has to perform for me on the golf course from an athletic standpoint. But then some of my personal taste is reflected to in what I wear on the golf course, because they also appreciate that I want to feel good in the clothing.
You’ve been described as one of the best-dressed golfers on tour. How do you go about curating your own personal style?
You know, it evolves. I look back at some old stuff and cringe, like we all probably do. But I think as I’ve gotten to this point in my life, I have a good understanding of a design. Not just of clothes, but also just design. My wife is an architect and I’ve learned a lot from her. I really appreciate good design that’s timeless. And that’s what I like to see. Of course there are trends. UNIQLO is a balance of both. For example, these Kando pants, which I worked quite closely in developing with UNIQLO. We were playing golf in them, but I wore these exact same pair last night with a jacket. And no one would have known they’re my golf pants. And I like the fact that it can be both. There’s versatility. I think we live in a very hectic, complex world, and a lot of people are starting to kind of simplify their life somehow, and you can do that now because of these innovating ideas that can be more than one thing. It’s not my golf clothes anymore. It’s my lifewear.
Play on the PGA Tour seems to get slower every week, How do you slow yourself down to make the rhythm work?
Right, I mean, I think now it’s been happening so long, I’ve probably slowed down as a golfer anyway. I’m not the fastest player out there, but I’m faster than average. And it’s brutal. I spend my whole day waiting. You can only accept it. In golf, so much is about accepting things, and you just have to because they’re not doing anything to change it. There’s nothing radical happening to change the pace of play. People complain about it, but in the big scheme of it, is it really a problem for the PGA tour? Sponsors aren’t leaving and the TV is not leaving because we play slow. So I don’t really think it’s a problem at the end. It just is what it is and you have to accept it.
Do you have any strategies for killing time on the course while you’re waiting? Can you read a book? Obviously phones aren’t allowed, right? You can’t check Twitter.
No, nothing really is allowed out there. You have so much time to think, it can be a killer. You don’t want to overanalyze things out on the golf course. You don’t want to get the bad thoughts flowing and not be able to stop them in between shots. Having a good rapport with your caddy is great. If you can have a conversation about football or a conversation about something completely different, to switch off is helpful. And if you don’t have a good relationship with your caddy, than you can get in another player's ear and put him off his game.
What tournament do you want to win most?
The Open Championship. I feel like I’ve had one hand on that trophy a few times and let it go. And when it comes to that time of the year, it’s a little thorn in my side from letting my opportunity slip. And that motivates me to work hard to get myself back in that position. I don’t know how many more shots at it I’ll have, so I need to get it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Obviously I’ve received a lot. I seem to be in a position where everyone is willing to give advice. I’ve probably forgotten more than I can remember. But I really like the philosophy of quality rather than quantity, necessarily. I think the architect Mies van der Rohe said ‘Less is more’ and I think we can apply it to a lot.
AC/DC for sure.
If you could only play one more round of golf, where would you play and with whom?
I would definitely play with my dad and my mom. They’re golfers that have been so instrumental in my whole career, providing for me before I was a pro. Maybe... Cypress Point. It’s both playable and not too long but stunning.