Bunker Mentality

Williams guiding Scott out of Tiger’s shadow

Bunker Mentality

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Stevie Williams guiding Adam Scott. And he needs guiding.

When Adam Scott burst onto the golf scene over a decade ago, he was immediately heralded as the new Tiger Woods.

He had the same coach in Butch Harmon, and a technique so incredibly similar to that used by Woods to win four Majors in a row that it seemed inconceivable that he wouldn't be just as good. He seemed the dream golfer that the sport had been waiting for since Woods's emergence in late 2006 — and what's better is that he mixed the raw golfing talent of Woods with the charisma and marketability of Greg Norman.

Everything was set to fall into place, and when he finished ninth on his Masters debut in 2002 (behind Woods, naturally) the world seemed at his feet. Here was the new superstar we'd been waiting for.

Except that he wasn't. Sure, he won the odd tournament and got into the world's top 10, but there's a big jump which separates players who do that (Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry and so on) from the likes of Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, who start carrying off half a dozen wins a year and multiple Major trophies on their mantelpieces.

As for taking the next step, towards Tiger-style victory streaks in Majors? Forget about it.

Funnily enough, it was none other than Scott's long-time coach who best explained what was missing from the Aussie's armoury — and he wasn't even talking about Scott at the time.

"Everybody talks about Tiger's new technique, and it just makes me laugh," Harmon told BM a few years ago, soon after Woods had started working with Hank Haney. "The truth is Tiger would win Majors no matter what swing he had."

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141st Open Championship - Round Three
And what was true for Woods was in reverse for Scott: he wouldn't win Majors, no matter what swing he had. His confidence suffered, his putting confidence dissolved, and for some reason a romantic association with tennis's fantasy pin-up Ana Ivanovic seemed to take the edge off his game still further.

The diagnosis was simple. He'd lost his head, but even after a move to a long putter fixed his problems on the greens, he continued to fall short.

As one of the nicest guys in the game, he simply didn't seem to have the laser-beam focus needed to carry off one of the biggies. It just wasn't going to happen, and before you start talking about how equally-nice Ernie Els has three of the big ones, remember that Els was largely gifted both his US Opens and his Claret Jug by the woes of others. Never has he taken a Major tournament by the scruff of the neck in the way that Woods has so often, or Rory McIlroy did at the US Open last year.

But after years of going close by using Tiger's swing, Scott now has another tool for the man whose footsteps he was travelling in; though BM should describe it not so much as a tool than a surface to air missile, since the secret weapon in question is a huge one.

It's Stevie Williams, Tiger's long-time bag man until an acrimonious split last year, and the man who carried Woods's sticks during all but one of his 14 Major wins.

The presence of Williams on his bag in the last 14 months or so has finally given Scott a chance to be the golfer he should be. BM has never met Williams away from a golf course, but anywhere near one the man is a born Rottweiler, a snarling, camera-smashing lunatic who, by accident of birth, became a caddie when by rights he should have lived his life as a high-ranking Stasi officer in 1980s East Berlin.

Scott might be too nice to grab a Major, but Williams has more than enough teeth, guts and grit to carry his man to victory on Sunday at Royal Lytham — everything, in fact, that his man lacks in his natural make-up.

Some golfers simply don't need this in a caddie. Take the likes of iron-willed Jack Nicklaus, for example, who once said that a caddie needed to do three things: turn up, keep up and shut up. Or then there's the German maestro Bernhard Langer, who had perhaps the best caddie in the game in Pete Coleman, but double checked his man's yardages to check if they'd been measured from the front or the back of the sprinkler heads.

Scott, though, is one of those players who rise to the top by the brilliance of their golf rather than through their competitive drive. Take Luke Donald: he was happy to make a few million dollars a year, but as soon as he got rid of his charming (and equally easy-going) brother Christian on his bag and hired swashbuckling Johnny McLaren, everything changed. From one win every few years he started collecting a few wins every one year, and is a well-deserved world number one despite his failure to fire on all cylinders at Lytham.

And so it is with Scott: a great player, and a great guy, but simply one of those players who needs to be taken by the scruff of the neck by his caddie before he can take his opponents by the scruffs of theirs.

Will he do it? Yes. BM is convinced that unless 30mph winds turn Lytham into a lottery on Sunday, Scott will win The Open. There's a serenity about his play this week that is strikingly similar to Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews two years ago, who won without breaking sweat; or the way Angel Cabrera eased to the US Open title in 2007; or Mike Weir, when he cruised to the Masters title in 2003; or indeed David Duval in 2001 the last time The Open was staged at Lytham. On each of these occasions, players with question marks over their Major temperaments came into the cauldron and walked away as winners.

But Scott can be even better: if he follows suit, it won't be because he's a second-tier golfer enjoying the best week of his life — it'll be because he's a first-tier golfer who has finally been guided onto the right track.

At the age of 32 it's too late for Scott to become the next Tiger Woods, but it's not too late for him to be the next best thing: a player in the Mickelson mould whose multiple Major trophies come through genuine greatness rather than a couple of brilliantly-timed purple patches (Angel Cabrera, we're looking at you).

So Scott should head in to Sunday knowing that after a dozen years of waiting, his time is finally about to come. And if it doesn't? Well, then we'll all know that it never will.

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