Masters of their domain

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Robert Allenby practising on Wednesday.AFTER Adam Scott held a four-shot lead with four holes to play at this year’s British Open, somehow blew his chance to win a first major, then handled the inquisitions about his game, and even his character, with almost unearthly calm and dignity … what happened next?

No, says Scott, he did not sink a size 12 slipper into the family feline. He did not turn the offending clubs into expensive Frisbees. He did not howl at the moon or curse the game’s sadistic gods.

”Yes, I had moments in the days after when I started reflecting on it, but it wasn’t for very long,” he says. ”It wasn’t a good feeling to do it, so I tried not to.”

Such was Scott’s equanimity in the moments after he swallowed that most bitter pill, those of us at Royal Lytham were left wondering if he had taken the defeat too well. Whether his gracious response betrayed a sense of denial or even a lack of desire. But Scott insists it was merely his way of making the most of a bad situation.

”I just wanted to get on with it,” he says. ”I was just playing so good. I turned up there having not won a major. I left having not won a major. Status quo.”

Which is not to say Scott underestimates the opportunity that was lost. ”Yes, I should have [won]. But I just wanted to get to the US PGA and keep playing well. That was my mindset … that’s how I had to try and take it. Just think about how incredible I played that golf course pretty much the whole week. I wanted to leave with that confidence and not let it bring me down, and I think I did a good job of that, because I played pretty well at the PGA.”

But Scott did not get into a winning position at the PGA. You suspect the real test of whether he was enriched, or traumatised, by events at Royal Lytham will come when he is again in contention late on Sunday at a major.

”I think it is only going to affect me well ultimately,” he says, claiming, paradoxically, that the British Open was the highlight of his year.

”It is a hard lesson to learn, but if I get back into that situation again, I’ll know to do a couple of things differently and hopefully it will fall right into place.

”Some people are fortunate because they win the first time they are in that position. Others, like Phil Mickelson, didn’t. But he eventually did and then the floodgates opened As far as I look at it, I’ve only had a chance to win two majors. Charl Schwartzel kind of took one away from me [at last year’s US Masters], and I’ve given one away. Maybe the next time it falls into place.”

Scott’s appetite for success might be gauged by his performance in this week’s Australian Masters, and then the Australian Open. Some measure their performance by their bank balance. Scott is one of an elite few who measure it by victories, and he has not had one this year. So he has worked hard over the past weeks.

Success has not been far away. Yet, as always, putting was the main topic at his Masters press conference. How well was he using his belly putter and, as pertinently, whether it should be banned. Scott claims that if good putters have had their advantage diminished by long putters – and he believes there is no evidence they have – then his ball-striking advantage has been diminished by improved technology. Why are authorities not addressing that?

As you might expect, Scott makes his point without rancour. After all, if you can lose a British Open after leading by four shots and react as if you have misplaced your watch, you can endure most things fate throws your way.


THE FORECAST THURSDAY 20 degrees, shower or two developing FRIDAY18 degrees, shower or two clearing. SATURDAY19 degrees, partly cloudy. SUNDAY20 degrees, partly cloudy.

THE TOP CONTENDERS Adam Scott (QLD) $4 Ian Poulter (ENG) $4.50 Graeme McDowell (IRE) $8 Richard Green (VIC) $17 Stuart Appleby (VIC) $19 Robert Allenby (VIC) $26 Alistair Presnell (VIC) $26 Aaron Townsend (NSW) $41 Peter Senior (QLD) $51 Andre Stolz (NSW) $61

THE COURSEAdam Scott, current World No. 5: “The guys that are going to be up there are going to be the ones who putt well. It’s a course where you can make a lot of putts because the greens are pure.” Graeme McDowell, 2010 US Open Winner: “Tee shot placement is a huge key, especially on the front nine. You start missing fairways and you are in huge trouble. There is only about six holes for drivers on this golf course.” Robert Allenby, two-time Australian Masters Champion: “On this golf course, every hole could be a tough hole depending on the wind and obviously we’ve got strong winds, so it’s one of those courses where you’ve got to show a lot of respect to it.”

THE HISTORY BOOKS The past winners of the Australian Masters since 2000. 2011 Ian Poulter 2010 Stuart Appleby 2009 Tiger Woods 2008 Rod Pampling 2007 Aaron Baddeley 2006 Justin Rose 2005 Robert Allenby 2004 Richard Green 2003 Robert Allenby 2002 Peter Lonard 2001 Colin Montgomerie

TRIPLE THREAT Australia’s newest elevation to the US PGA Tour, Victorian Alistair Presnell, takes us through the three holes at Kingston Heath that will test the field the most. The 4th Par 4, 378 metres: “With the bunker in the middle of the fairway there, I think that is pretty strong, however it’s going to be down breeze so maybe a number of guys can take it on.” 15th Par 3, 141 metres: “Back up the hill, again it will be prevailing southerly down breeze, but it’s a real centre of the green kind of shot with some real penalising bunkers to play with.” 18th Par 4, 418 metres: “They have moved the tee back 25 metres to really make sure that the left bunker is in play and you certainly can’t leak the ball right because of the foliage.”

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