Scott and Williams - easy looking back
BY Bruce Young | 28 Jul 2012
I have been intrigued by the reaction to the demise of Adam Scott over the closing stages of the Open Championship last weekend and to the at times vitriolic statements being made by those who felt he succumbed to the nerves or that his caddie Steve Williams should have been more vocal and decisive in the heat of the moment.
All of this is being said without a full understanding of the facts and until such time as Scott or Williams speak up about their thought processes and collective decision making over the closing few holes then any such scrutiny is merely speculative.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. After all professional golf is the entertainment industry and for being paid such vast amounts of money for their role in the public arena, golfers are subject to having their games and decision making analysed and dissected.
There is little doubt that many great decisions were made by Scott and Williams over the first 68 holes. Scott appeared to have attacked when he needed to and defended when appropriate. After all Scott had recorded a massive 17 birdies and hit 70% of fairways and greens prior to things turning pear shaped over the closing stages.
In order to have done that in the pressure cooker that is major championship golf and on a layout as demanding as Royal Lytham & St Annes suggests many correct decisions had already been made as he stood over his approach to the par four 15th on Sunday.
The missed green there could be excused. It was a shot of over 200 yards after all and into a wind that quartered from the left. The bunker shot Scott faced there was not easy and while not great it was not bad although he missed the putt. A bogey at that point hardly seemed a major concern however.
It appears the shots that came under greatest scrutiny in terms of strategy, rightly or wrongly, were the tee shot at the 16th and the tee shot at the last.
Scott had played the 16th conservatively all week yielding one birdie and two pars from his policy of laying up from the tee and taking his chances after avoiding the traps that guard the entrance to the green. It was a golf hole that played the easiest of all throughout the week but one that was not totally devoid of danger.
Was that the right decision on the final day? Well on the surface it appeared to be. It was more a poor pitch and the missed three footer that cost him the shot rather than the decision to lay up.
I have heard some say he had half of England to the right of the 17th so why even take on the flag? To be fair to Scott I don’t think he was attempting do so. He would say later that it was the shot that most disappointed him over the closing stages.
“Looking back on it, it all comes down to the shot into 17 for me that I’m most disappointed with,” he said soon after his round. “At that point I’m still well in control of the tournament, and if I hit a nice shot somewhere to the right of the hole and I can go to the last with the lead still. So that was pretty disappointing for me really.”
That statement suggests what he was trying to do and was unable to execute. He knew what he wanted to do and what he had to do but was unable to produce the shot when he needed to. He is not the first golfer to have that happen.
At the last he had thought about going with an iron from the tee which he had hit on two of the opening three days but the strength of the left to right wind influenced his decision. An iron from the tee on Thursday led to a bogey although the wind was in a different direction that day.
“Yeah, I thought about going with less club, but it was hard left to right, and I felt like if I just hit a 3 wood it would drift,” he said. “But I just hit a real bullet and it held on its line. I’d hit 3 wood and some irons the other days, 2 irons. But I just held it too much on its line. Unfortunately that wasn’t the shot I needed right there.”
A pulled iron might also have found one of the left hand bunkers and a not so well hit iron might have struggled to get over the shorter fairway bunkers so again it is perhaps a case of execution rather than club choice.
Scott did produce a great shot for his third to the 72nd hole but the putt was never on line so again the mistakes made, if indeed they were just that, appear to have been whether he should have driven it off the 16th tee and left himself just a short flick if that to the flag or whether he lays back like he has all week, and the decision on the 18th tee. The other mistakes were more related to execution.
As to Steve Williams role, well on screen it appeared over the closing stages as if he was not having as much input as we had seen earlier but to be fair to the New Zealander it may be that the cameras missed a lot of what had been said. Williams is hardly a wallflower at crucial times in tournament play. Most of the players he has worked for over long periods have retained him because of his decisive manner and ability to put his hand up for the hard decisions.
I would be surprised if the banter between Scott and Williams had dried up significantly in the most crucial of moments. Whether the decisions made were right or wrong, they contributed to the loss and Scott and Williams must live with them but whether they would have done things differently if they had their time over again will always be speculative.
If they had known what was about to befall them then maybe they would have but golf does not allow that luxury.
Hindsight is a great gift in life and it certainly is in golf where unfortunately you are not allowed a mulligan to correct a wrong.
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