The smile and satisfaction have not faded for Adam Scott.
It’s been nearly two months since the Australian withstood Angel Cabrera and a rainy Georgia afternoon to win the Masters, his first major title.
Over the course of those two months, Scott has played three times with mediocre results: T19 at the Players Championship, T13 at the Memorial Tournament and T45 at the U.S. Open.
Is he playing differently than he did at Augusta National? Absolutely he is.
Rarely do winners of major championships come back in their next start or two and play with the same kind of precision and focus they did in their big triumphs.
At the Masters, Scott posted three of four rounds in the 60s, including a three-under 69 on Sunday. Since then, he’s posted three rounds under par in 12 rounds.
Unusual, nah, I think not.
A look back at the last four Masters’ champions shows that they didn’t fare all that much differently than Scott has this year.
Bubba Watson, the 2011 champion, had a tie for 18th and two missed cuts in this next three events; Charl Schwartzel, whose red-hot finish in the 2010 Masters won him a green jacket, posted ties for 26, 22 and nine; Phil Mickelson finished second, T17 and MC in 2009; and Angel Cabrera put up a MC, T14 and T54 in 2008.
It’s called major championship hangover and it’s perfectly normal.
It’s not physically or mentally possible to get over winning a major, let alone trying to recreate that special feeling that was in place that week.
Here a couple ways Scott has played differently since the Masters.
Once his thrilling week in Augusta was complete, he was second on the PGA Tour in scoring average at 69.027, trailing Tiger Woods.
At the conclusion of the season’s second major, the U.S. Open, Scott had dropped to fourth at 69.398.
While he’s putting better (he was 80th in the strokes gained putting category through the Masters) and 51st now, his average driving distance has dropped a couple yards since April to 298.8.
Most shockingly, he was 88th in greens in regulation in April, but has improved that to a 34th place ranking now.
Scott’s first tournament since putting on the green jacket was the Players Championship. At a pre-tournament press conference, he showed he was aware of what he was facing in his new life as a major champion.
“Hopefully come (Thursday) morning (the first round), I’ll be able to plant my feet on the ground and keep this going because it could be the start of a great year for me out here on the tour,” he said.
It still could be. Will he get back to the level of precision he showed Masters week? Who knows.
The thing with Scott is that we know he can compete at the highest level because he’s done so on a number of occasions, including winning the 2004 Players Championship and having the 2012 Open Championship in his grasp before letting it slip away.
That’s what separates him from a one-shot wonder like Bubba Watson, who is the perfect example of a guy who caught lightning in a bottle and has made very little noise since.
Adam Scott is in the prime of his golfing career right now. He’s going to win plenty more golf tournaments and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him win more majors.
And if he does that, he’ll go through that “major hangover” following that triumph, just like he’s doing now.
There’s little reason to worry about Adam Scott, his golf game and how they are performing.
He’s the third-ranked player in the world and hasn’t done anything to damage that standing.
He was looking forward to being introduced on his first hole at the Players Championship as the 2013 Masters champion. That little detail was not mentioned, however.
"The biggest disappointment of the day was the announcement on the first tee," Scott said with a grin, "because he didn't introduce me as the Masters champion."
Expectations are now higher for Scott, both for the player and his fans. That can be both a blessing and a curse.
How he handles those expectations will determine which will be the case for him.