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Scott's handling of defeat showed remarkable character

ESPN staff
July 25, 2012
Adam Scott's demise was one of the most harrowing in golf's history © Getty Images
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It's impossible not to focus on what Adam Scott lost on Sunday at Royal Lytham & St Annes - how could you do anything else? - but it would be wrong to say he left completely empty handed.

Defeat may have cost him up to £15 million in endorsement-related earnings (according to former PGA Tour pro Joe Ogilvie, who admittedly must know such details more through close association than personal experience) but, on the bright side, he gained many thousands of new fans and the respect of millions.

The Australian's defeat was crushing - most observers can only imagine what dropping four shots in the final four holes to lose by one must feel like - but he handled the whole situation with remarkable honour and integrity.

Scott has never hidden his admiration for Greg Norman - he "was my idol", Scott said on Thursday - so it was unfortunate to see him end up following in the footsteps of the two-time major winner's many meltdowns, rather than his all-too infrequent triumphs. But, to his eternal credit, at least Scott reacted to the gut-wrenching disappointment in the same way as his boyhood hero: like a man.

"I thought he was a great role model, how he handled himself in victory and defeat," Scott noted, during the post-mortem of a demise that he - will the punishment never stop?! - was also forced to attend. "He set a good example for [young Australians]. It's tough; you don't want to sit here and have to...

"I can't justify anything that I've done out there. I didn't finish the tournament well today. But next time - I'm sure there will be a next time, and I can do a better job of it."

Scott has played unbelievably well at all the majors so far this year - cumulatively, only Graeme McDowell has really rivalled him to this point - to such an extent that, to simplify matters greatly, but for nine holes at all three tournaments we could be looking at a player one win away from the grand slam.

Bad opening rounds at the Masters and US Open scuppered any chance he had on that occasion - while his collapse at the death on the Fylde coast cost him, and Australia, a hugely significant win.

"It would be fantastic," fellow Aussie Geoff Ogilvy (not to be confused with the aforementioned Ogilvie) had said, while a Scott victory still looked on the cards. "Obviously it's been quite a long time [since an Australian last won a major; Ogilvy himself at the 2006 US Open] and the questions have been coming pretty hard for the last two or three years. And it would be... it would be large.

"A lot of kids picked up golf clubs when Greg was winning majors and contending in majors every week, and I think that sort of thing will help them, and the public golf courses will fill up and people will get their golf clubs out of the closet and more people will come to golf tournaments in Australia and we might get more sponsorship. It's impossible to measure, but I think it would be really big."

Scott's failure to finish the job may have prevented that anticipated reaction from becoming the reality, but at least he passed on another of the lessons Norman passed to him. Millions more Australians, and young golf fans around the world, will now have a greater appreciation of the way to react in both victory and defeat.

Ernie Els, the man who profited from Scott's demise, played his part in that - the South African remaining reserved even amidst one of the greatest moments of his career, so aware was he of his close friend's nightmare.

"Obviously I'm so happy that I've won. But I've been on the other end more times than I've actually been on the winning end, so to speak. And it's not a good feeling," Els said on Sunday. "I think Adam is a little bit different than I am. I did see him afterwards in the scorer's hut and he seemed okay.

Victory and defeat shared a difficult relationship © Getty Images
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"I really said to him, 'I'm sorry how things turned out'. I told him that I've been there many times and you've just got to bounce back quickly. Don't let this thing linger.

"So yeah, I feel for him. But thankfully he's young enough. He's 32 years old. He's got the next 10 years that he can win more [majors] than I've won. I've won four now; I think he can win more than that."

It's a measure of Scott's character that, after undoubtedly the most harrowing moment of his professional career, the ensuing press conference finished amid general laughter. Scott had received a somewhat spurious question about his family links to Yorkshire, an inquiry so irrelevant in the greater scheme of things that even he couldn't take it seriously.

"It's my dad's cousins that are from Freckleton," he said, after it was put to him that his parents were from five miles down the road and his grandmother used to have a house overlooking the Lytham course. "And I believe his aunt lived behind the ninth green once. But that's the best I've got for you!"

It was a light-hearted exchange, one that perhaps doesn't translate too well in type, that nevertheless underlined the character of the man. Most players in the same situation would not have faced the press, yet Scott managed to do so with both grace and humour.

He may not have ended up the champion golfer of the year, but you sensed he was a man of admirable character - something equally commendable.

"He's a great bloke," Ogilvy had observed a few hours earlier. "Everyone likes Adam. That's all you can really say. There's nothing to not like about him. He's just a good bloke."

On Sunday, the world also learned that. It might not be the Claret Jug, but it still means something.

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