Adam Scott’s efforts to add a 2013 U.S. Open title to his career-making Masters triumph were essentially doomed even before he arrived at Merion Golf Club this week; he just didn't know it.
Not because winning at Augusta National and then at the USGA’s signature event isn't possible; it just turns out you have to be an immortal golfer to accomplish it.
Since the Masters was first played in 1934, only five golfers have managed to win a green jacket in April and then follow it up with a U.S. Open triumph three months later. The golfers were Tiger Woods (2002), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Arnold Palmer (1960), Ben Hogan—who accomplished the impressive feat twice (1951, 1953)—and Craig Wood (1941).
With Scott’s second-round implosion leaving him as an afterthought at the start of the weekend, Tiger’s 2002 back-to-back display will likely remain the last time the two championships were held by the same player.
In fact, outside of three near-misses by Phil Mickelson, it really hasn't been close to happening since.
Scott learned just how incredibly tough it is to back up Masters glory with a U.S. Open victory on Friday, when his second-round 75 essentially knocked him out of contention. He begins Saturday eight shots out of the lead, with a valley full of golfers in between him and the lead of Mickelson and Billy Horschel.
Although no study has been done nor mathematical equation solved that would explain why it’s so difficult to win both tournaments consecutively, we do have some theories of our own.
The two events are played three months apart, so perhaps it’s just too difficult to keep the momentum from one going to the other.
It may be that the demands placed on winning at Augusta National are so different than those required in the U.S. Open that few golfers have the game to win at both. Consider this: During the past two decades, only Tiger and Angel Cabrera have wins in both the Masters and the U.S. Open.
During that same stretch, extremely talented golfers, such as Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Mickelson, have won one or the other but not both.
Speaking of Mickelson, he’s a perfect example of just how tough it is to get it done at the U.S. Open after breaking through at Augusta. Lefty has won the Masters three times—in 2004, 2006 and 2010—and each time he has contended at the U.S. Open only to come up short.
The most painful of those losses came in 2006 when he blew a one-shot lead on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot and lost to Geoff Ogilvy.
At least Mickelson came close to pulling off the double each time he won the Masters; most others haven’t come close. Bubba Watson followed his emotional Masters win with a missed cut at the Olympic Club. Cabrera finished 54th in his effort after winning the green jacket in 2009. In 2008, Trevor Immelman was worse than that.
Perhaps those players, like Scott this year, have found it difficult to regain their form after such a career-defining victory. For players like Woods, Mickelson, Nicklaus and Palmer, the victory was just one of many major triumphs. For golfers like Immelman, it is likely the pinnacle of a career.
Since he won the green jacket in April, Scott has played in only two PGA Tour events, meaning the rust heading into Merion was significant. And it certainly showed on Friday, especially on the greens. Additionally, like all Masters champions before him, Scott has had enormous media and publicity duties in the three months between Augusta and Merion, and that likely has taken a toll as well.
Winning a major championship, especially a golfer’s first one, changes things tremendously in the short run, which doesn’t help when preparing for such a difficult test like the U.S. Open.
Of course, all of this is simple conjecture being used to explain one undeniable fact: Winning the U.S. Open after finding glory at Augusta is a feat only the greatest of the game can tackle. That will likely change at some point along the way, but for now it simply is what it is.
Just ask Adam Scott.