Predicting Adam Scott's Future After Anchored Putter Ban

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2012

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 22:  Adam Scott of Australia reacts to a missed par putt on the 18th green during the final round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club on July 22, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

At a practice round prior to last week’s Australian Open, Adam Scott was seen practicing with a short putter. 

The putter in question appeared to be nearly 35 inches, and Scott was employing a modified grip. He didn’t use the device in play, but the siting confirms that Scott is searching for an alternative to his long putter, which will become illegal following the publication of the next Official Rules of Golf in 2016, and that alternative doesn’t appear to be returning to a standard-length putter.

Scott’s career after the anchoring ban will be very similar to his career before it. As he hasn’t improved statistically with the long putter, the issue of significance pertaining to the ban, for Scott, is his confidence. Assuming he remains constant in that department, he may win another five to six events on tour, but he won’t win a major. He may stay in the top 15 of the OWGR, but he won’t challenge the top five.

Prior to adopting the long putter at the beginning of the 2011 season, Scott was terrible with the flatstick. From 2008 to 2010, he ranked no better than 178th in Strokes Gained-Putting, the best statistical metric of putting success. In 2011, Scott was 143rd in the category, and he was148th in 2012. The long putter has improved his putting, but only slightly. 

Beyond this, he has neither won nor made cuts with a greater frequency since switching to the sweeper. His stated reason for adopting the long putter, beyond issues with confidence, was his putting from inside 10 feet. Over the two years Scott has been using the long putter, he has improved only marginally in that range, from about 180th to 140th.

Moreover, Scott has won the same number of times—once—in the two years since implementing a long putter as he did in the two year prior to making the decision. If the long putter is paying dividends for Adam Scott, they are primarily mental.

Scott has moved from near 40th in the Official World Golf Rankings to within the top 10 since adopting the long putter. His upward surge has less to do with having a 49-inch putter in his hand and more to do with the confidence required to play good golf consistently in significant tournaments, which the OWGR rewards. On paper, he is still an awful putter.

Scott believes that he putts better with a long putter than a short one. Unless he can convince himself that he can perform as well with a shorter putter (not necessarily a traditional 35-incher) as his anchored 49-inch Scotty Cameron, he will struggle on the greens in particular and with his confidence in general.

Coupling this lack of confidence with his self-belief-eroding collapse at the Open Championship last year, it’s difficult to think Scott will perform better after the enactment of Rule 14-1b. He doesn’t need any additional assistance in not winning golf tournaments. The events of 2012 may be able to be spun as growth-inducing or cathartic, but they are, in essence, devastating for a golf career.

As we approach the end of the year, there are likely voices inside Adam Scott’s head that are saying, “Well, Adam, they always said you didn’t have what it takes to win a major. Looks like they’re right,” or “You just found a putter that works...now they’re going to take it out of your hands.”

Given these body blows, there’s no way Scott’s future after January 2016 is a promising one.

Peering again inside the Australian’s head, he still seems to be lacking the essential substance of a major winner and of a consistent contender for significant tournaments on tour. Whether he's using a long putter, short putter or foot wedge, this isn’t going to change.

Adam Scott lacks the grit, the mettle, the fire in the belly to really be a contender. This was true prior to the announcement of Rule 14-1b, and it will be true after the rule’s enactment. It’s inexplicable that a player who’s consistently in the top 20 in scoring average on tour has only won eight times in 12 years on the professional circuit.

This year, he was sixth in overall scoring average but 79th in Final Round Scoring. After 12 years on tour, you’d think he’d be able to put it together on Sunday.

Adam Scott seems more content to wriggle into his wetsuit and surf the day away than he does to compete at the highest level. Sure, he practices—everyone on tour does. Sure, he trains—everyone on tour does. He doesn’t, however, do what great competitors do—the Jacks and Tigers.

He doesn’t love the pressure. He doesn’t want to have to perform with it all on the line. He doesn’t want the putt to win the major. He doesn’t relish the challenge of keeping his head, steadying his nerves, sucking it up and getting the job done on Sunday.

After he handed Ernie Els the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham, Scott seemed fatalistic and resigned. He seemed like he accepted that it just wasn’t his day. While this may be great for the psyche and beneficial going forward, in the immediate aftermath of a dismal personal failure, Scott should have been furious with himself for not getting the job done.  

“I shouldn't let this bring me down,” Scott said in the his press conference following the loss at Lytham.

Actually, he should.

There’s something to be said for picking up the pieces and moving on after the fact, but that’s a far cry from the complacency-tinged nonsense Scott spewed.

Adam Scott ought to retire, accept his status as one of the foremost underachievers in recent golf history and paddle off into the sunset now rather than drawing out the narrative of his career. He’ll be the same after the ban as before—that is, a disappointment.


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