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Can Scott handle final-round pressure?

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Rob Hodgetts | 22:47 UK time, Saturday, 21 July 2012

Pressure will do funny things to a man. Not the real pressure of feeding a family or saving a life but sporting pressure. It's that feeling of being so close and yet so damned far from achieving your dreams. No matter how big or small.

Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods all have a very real chance of lifting the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham on Sunday.

They share the same dream, but they will all feel the pressure differently.

For Scott, the leader by four, there is the realisation that he could finally uncork the potential that has been bottled up for so long.

Open leader Adam Scott of Australia

Wil Scott's four-shot lead help calm his nerves as he chases a maiden major? Pic: Getty.

The Australian, who was 32 on Monday, won the prestigious Players Championship, often considered the "fifth major", in 2004 and reached a career-high of third in the world rankings in 2007. But though he continued to win tournaments his career never really kicked on.

"He's carrying a lot of expectation on his shoulders," said three-time Open champion Sir Nick Faldo. "Everybody thought he was going to be the next man to step it up but that was a long time ago now."

Scott's renaissance came in 2011, not unconnected to a switch to a long putter, when he tied for second at the Masters behind Charl Schwartzel.

On the face of it, his four-stroke cushion should help calm the nerves, but that brings with it its own stresses, as Rory McIlroy found out last year at Augusta. A stiff breeze is expected on Sunday, too, which could, as McDowell puts it, waken a sleeping giant in the Lytham course.

"The good part is if I play a solid round of golf it will be very hard for the others to beat me and that's all I'm thinking about," said Scott, who has the added bonus of having Woods's former caddie Steve Williams on the bag. "Obviously there are nerves and there is a finish line out there somewhere but through my career I've been able to handle that situation fairly well."

The Adelaide-born, Swiss-based star will play alongside Northern Ireland's McDowell in the final group. The 2010 US Open champion is keen not only to win the Open for its own sake, but also to move into the next bracket - that of multiple major winners - and thus prove he is no one-major wonder.

The 32-year-old also played in the last pair at the US Open last month and finished runner-up to Webb Simpson.

McDowell, who came from three behind when he won the US Open at Pebble Beach, is also striving to win Northern Ireland's fourth major in three years after his own triumph, Rory McIlroy's US Open win in 2011 and Darren Clarke's Open victory 12 months ago.

"I'm sure Adam and myself will be experiencing slightly different emotions but it will all boil down to the same thing - pressure," he said. "It will boil down to being scared, probably of failing more than winning. But the golf course is the main challenge, not each other."

Brandt Snedeker, 31, sits at seven under alongside McDowell and is also trying to reach the promised land of major champion. The American has had experience of playing in the final group of a major when he partnered eventual champion Trevor Immelman at the 2008 Masters.

On Friday night, having equalled Nick Faldo's 36-hole scoring record at the Open, he spoke of how was hoping to buck the trend of halfway leaders falling away. At four back he still has a very real chance.

And then there's Tiger Woods. The 36-year-old is in a unique position. Only he can know the stress he feels and the pressure he puts on himself to win a 15th major and first since the 2008 US Open. In many ways it would be his greatest achievement after the scandal, injury and controversy that have surrounded him in recent years.

But Woods is five shots back and has never won a major when trailing going into the final round. New career phase, new first, perhaps?

Ernie Els, six adrift, is, at 42, is nearing the end of his career in the real top flight but still has a point to prove having won the last of his three majors at the 2002 Open. Zach Johnson, alongside Els, is another trying to double his major tally.

But everyone's got a back story, so where do we stop on the list? Paul Lawrie came from 10 behind to win the Open at Carnoustie in 1999.

"Strange things can happen," said five-time Open champion Tom Watson. "Five shots back is usually the number [still in contention] but if the wind blows hard a round of golf under 70 could well jump you up the leaderboard a whole number of spots."

Scott still holds all the aces, time will tell whether his Lytham lead is just a house of cards.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I don't have a preference on the winner but if I is not Scott then I hope it is down to a brilliant performance rather than him blowing it. He seems a nice bloke an it's awful watching a collapse a la Mcilroy in the masters.

    One other thing, can we please have some wind tomorrow?

  • Comment number 2.

    Key factor could be Steve Williams tomorrow.

    Scott will probably feel the nerves at some point and if he does start to falter, Williams will be just the man to drag him out of it.

    Just a shame Woods didn't quite make the final pairing - would have made things much more interesting...

  • Comment number 3.

    @1 here here, I hope it's a brilliant round from Tiger or McDowell and not Scott blowing it if he isn't to win. Watching Rory at the masters 2011 was heart breaking. Here's hoping for a good days golf and a close day of golf.

  • Comment number 4.

    FAO BBC Open Golf Commentary Team:-

    Irish golfers have been very successful in the "Majors" over the last 4-5 years or so (i.e. Harrington, McDowell, Clarke & McIlroy) but although we keep hearing about how strong the European Tour is, Martin Kymer is the only European outwith Eire or Northern Ireland to produce a "Major" winner since Paul Lawrie's unexpected triumph in the 1999 British Open.

    With South African golfers also having a few recent "Major" successes (i.e. Immelman, Schwartzel & more recently Oosthuizen) & Adam Scott on the verge of ending a 19 year wait for the Aussies, where is the next European (excl Eire/NI), Scottish, English or Welsh winner going to come from ?

    I am particularly concerned about the state of golf in Scotland, England & Wales, when it come to "Majors" success :-(

    At present the likes of Westwood, Donald, Poulter, Rose, Laird, Lawrie (Paul) & Dyson are the only Scottish/English/Welsh players in the World Top 50 Rankings, but they either don't seem to have or no longer have the required mentality to even challenge for a top 5/top 10 place in the "Majors", let alone winning one, in spite of Luke being World No. 1 & Lee being World No. 3 (possibly down to No. 4 after tomorrow ?)

    Dare I suggest, that the the state of the European Tour is not nearly as healthy as many would lead us to believe, considering we have only had 1 European "Major" Winner outwith Eire/NI, since 1999 (i.e. Martin Kymer).

    IMHO, we desperately need someone to break the mould & mount a resurgance in UK golfing fortunes, so I would love to hear the BBC Open comentators views on this at some point during tomorows Final Round, particularly Peter Alliss & Sir Nick Faldo ?

    Thanks

    Bob M.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4

    Changing the subject slightly but...I agree.

    I can see USA wiping the floor with Europe in September.
    Their current Top 12 in the Ryder Cup rankings are probably the 12 you would pick if you had free reign on selection - only Furyk could possibly stake a claim from outside it.

    They have been much more consistent in the majors this year than Europe's current top 12 and with conditions to suit, I fear a thrashing for Europe.

  • Comment number 6.

    @4 a bit odd to effectively say "the Europeans have not won many majors the last few years apart from the 6 from Irish and Northern Irish players. It's a little bit like saying European nations in football are not good at winning recent World Cups "outwith" (where on earth did you get this silly word from? Dickens?) Italy and Spain.

  • Comment number 7.

    @4 I think you are slightly harsh on Luke Donald, yes he hasn't won a major yet, but he ha done some no other player has done - ever. However I really feel like the Irish boys are going to have to play well at the Ryder cup for us to retain. I also agree with you on the point of where is the next young scotsman or Welshman coming through? Hopefully we will get some more youngsters soon, but in the mean time, I think the Irish boys plus Luke are doing us proud.

  • Comment number 8.

    Can he handle the pressure? Of course he can, he's Australian! (Scurries away before someone mentions Greg Norman).

  • Comment number 9.

    Also Re: 4, if you are waiting for any golfing insight from Peter Alliss, I suggest you give up and look elsewhere.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think mental collapses are a part of the game. When Greg Norman collapsed in the final round of the Masters against Faldo, that didn't bother me at all. Golf can be a very cruel, humbling game. But, ultimately, these guys have a tremendous lifestyle, and i wouldn't feel too sorry for them. We are talking about loss of a golf tournament...Not a loss of human life.

    With regard to the Ryder Cup...I wouldn't count Europe out at all. The Americans are notoriously poor TEAM players, with their oversized egos, and certainly don't enjoy the foursomes/balls aspect. Secondly, the choice of course, Medinah, is not a regular on the PGA Tour. Therefore, the US team will be about as familiar with its quirks and nuances, as the Europeans. I think Europe will prevail..!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Re the Ryder Cup, I agree with Bob M.

    Look at the American Top 10 just now, I know top 8 qualify plus 8 picks - extremely strong and on the past year's form, look very capable of winning come September.

    Europe have so many woefully out of form - Garcia, McIlroy, Kaymer way out of form for months - Donald and Westwood, decent golfers but are no better than the American top 8 or 10.

    I was having a debate with some others this afternoon.... Does anyone else think this is a very average point in time when it comes to considering the quality of the top golfers.

    I agree there that the depth is probably deeper than ever but at the very top 10 ish, I think the quality is decade wise or generationally well below average.

    The one outstanding golfer of this decade is Woods, but he is way below the golfer he was.

    The rest of the top 10 - Donald, Westwood, McIlroy, Simpson, Kuchar, Bubba etc - mere average journeymen golfers in the pantheon of greats such as Nicklaus, Watson, Faldo, Ballesteros, Norman etc etc.

    I'm not having a go at them, they all try hard, just making an observation comparing them to real top quality golfers.

  • Comment number 12.

    @11 Disagree with your assertion that the top ten are "mere average journeymen golfers." Just looking at their achievements alone doesn't bear this out: Donald doubling up to win BOTH money lists, something no-one has ever achieved before, Westwood seven top 3s in majors over the past 4 years plus 2009 Race to Dubai title and 22 wins on the ET, McIlroy World No 1 and one of THE great major performances of all time to win '11 US Open, Simpson an emerging young player finishing second in his first full season and going to win a major, Kuchar clearly on the rise after his Players win and now contending in majors, and Watson talented maverick and major champion...

  • Comment number 13.

    @4 your argument is lacking in some ways as it really doesn't address the fact that British & European golfers were dominating the rankings until earlier this year. The Yanks have just stepped up a notch, with their main players winning regularly and this has coincided with a time when Europe's stars aren't winning much themselves but are getting beaten by so-called lesser players on their own tour and failing to close out tournaments on the PGA Tour, which demonstrates the strength in depth of both tours at the moment. This is cyclical and shows the game is in a never-ending state of flux.

    None of the "Big 5" English superstars Westwood, Donald, Rose, Poulter and Casey (fast becoming Big 4 with Casey's struggles) may yet own a major but you only have to look at the snowball effect of Paddy Harrington's triumphs to see what can happen when the floodgates open... When you add to these big names Simon Dyson and Robert Rock's recent good for, up and coming English talent such as Chris Wood, Oliver Fisher, Tom Lewis and James Morrison, plus the likes of David Howell showing signs of regaining form, the future is bright indeed. For Wales and Scotland, Paul Lawrie is showing no sign of tailing off from his Indian Summer, Martin Laird is improving steadily, Jamie Donaldson looks like a decent player now the shackles have been cast off and let's not forget Rhys Davies who has been enduring a lean couple of years.

    On the continent, Kaymer's form is temporary but his class is decidedly permanent and the same can be said of Sergio Garcia who for my money is still a potential multiple major winner and future world no 1!! With Henrik Stenson and Paddy Harrington rounding back into form and not writing off veterans like Thomas Bjorn, Freddie Jacobson and even Robert Karlsson (his pre-Open debacle notwithstanding), there are plenty of past stars still playing well to augment current leading lights such as Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari (plus brother Edoardo if he gets his form back), Nicolas Colsearts, Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, Alvaro Quiros and Rafa Cabrera-Bello who will all be around for years to come and will contend is majors, meaning making future Ryder Cup teams ever more competitive. And that's before we even look at the next generation of Euro talent such as Thorbjorn Olesen, Matteo Manassero, Joost Luiten etc...

  • Comment number 14.

    I hope Adam Scott can overcome the final hurdle tomorrow- he seems a nice enough bloke, has played good golf for four days, and is at the age where he really needs to win one before it becomes some kind of burden.

    I actually think he'll cope quite well- he may not ahve a major on his resume, but his PGA Tour wins include The Players, The Tour Champ and the WGC Bridgestone. These are probabaly the three biggest tournaments in the world that aren't Majors. For his WGC win, he succesfully converted a 54-hole lead into a win after 72 with some solid ball striking, being conservative when required and aggresive when the chance arose. I'll echo other comments here by saying Steve Williams ought to help- he should help settle any jitters.

    For anyone else to have a chance, they'll need a bit of luck (An Oosthuizen-style albatross, perhaps?), some help from Scott coming back to the field a bit and maybe a bit of wind. I can't see this course offering up a 64 or anything like that. Like I said, I hope Adam does it.

    Whie we are the subject of The Ryder Cup, from a British/European perspective it does look worrying. There are a number of good young-ish Americans who seem to have taken a step-up in the last 12-18 months. If one looks at their RC points standings, the top 12 looks fairly formidable. Also, can we plase dispense with the myth that the US don't have team spirit? They had GREAT spirit at Valhalla (better than Europe's on that occasion!) and showed great fight in a losing casue at Celtic Manor. With home advantage, the inevitible partisan crowed and a course suited to their players, I'd predict a 2-3 point win to them if the matches were to be played tomorrow.

    Thankfully for Europe, they're not! Luke Donald has been in decent touch (his underperformance in Majors not withstanding), McDowell looks like he's got the competitive juices flowing again, and Fran Molinari is coming into some form. But the others you would expect to be the bedrock of the team are a cause for concern. I'm hoping with Rory McIlroy that it's simply a case of over-doing it somewhat, and some recharging of batteries is all that's needed. I followed Rors for Rd 1 and he played beautifully for 14 holes, and even recovered well from the disaster on 15, so believe me, he's not so far away from his best. Westwood might be a bigger concern with his poor putting and his strange admission after Rd1 here that he had no clue where the bal was going. He does at least have time to put that right.

    Kaymer is actually on the verge of losing his automatic spot on the team to Peter Hanson, an unthinkable scenario 12-18 months ago. On current form he would not get a pick, and shows no signs of reversing his slide. Ian Poulter similairly is struggling, but I would guess he would get a pick if required gven his great matchplay record. Harrington is playing decently, but isn't on the team as of right, and given he has 'previous' with Olazabal, coupled with his dire RC record, I doubt he would be a pick.

    Europe have time to put it right, but the USA look clear favorites to me.

  • Comment number 15.

    As an Australian i would love to see Adam Scott win the Open but alas, Great Britain are going through a golden era of sport at the moment and one can't help but think that the momentum of winning that they are achieving will put them in good stead for both this contest and the upcoming olympics.I will be sitting up into the wee hours of the morning to watch Adam play and same for the "games" next weekend. enjoy it all england.god knows you have been working towards this for decades and it's well deserved.It will be interesting to see how many knighthoods will occur and which sports they will come from.

  • Comment number 16.

    Apparantly Scott was mentored by Greg Norman. Meaning he wont turn up on Sunday.

    I don't have much sympathy when golfers choke; they're professionals who spend countless hours on their game. They should be able to figure out the right technique that is effective at all times, not just in a rout like Mcilroys 2011 Us Open.

    Here's hoping Tiger makes an epic charge, shoots 64 in difficult conditions whilst the other leaders struggle, and brings home the trophy. Having Tiger rule the golf world once again will be great for the sport and the fans.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't care who as long as it's not Woods - I hope he never wins another major. Built a brand on a clean cut, wholesome image and all the time betrayed everyone who ever supported him. Disgraceful man.

  • Comment number 18.

    Adam Scott has proved he has the game to win but a four shot lead on a golf course like this can disappear in one hole. The conditions could also play a huge part if the wind gets up today. Obviously Tiger Woods is in a great position although he would have preferred to be playing with Scott so he could turn the screw more easily. I like Mcdowell and Zach Johnson should not be discounted being only 6 shots back.

    Winning major championships has become a thing that many golfers are able to do in the last few years. With that in mind, Adam Scott has a superb chance of winning his first Claret jug but he will need to keep control mentally. There are shots to be dropped at Lytham and the key is how a player reacts to that event. Scott needs to think 'slow and clear' under pressure which isn't easy at times.

    Woods' name cannot be ignored. He is just about in range to strike but will need a flawless round to contend. My eyes keep going back to Mcdowell though. He knows he can win the big ones and he has been very secure all week. Playing with Scott can be turned into an advantage with a fast start. The 4 shot lead can go quickly and Mcdowell has the confidence to produce that attack.

  • Comment number 19.

    Although posts seem to be veering into Ryder Cup territory the main issue was about whether Adam Scott could manage the pressure.
    I believe he has a number if things in his favour not least being a 4 shot cushion.
    Some might argue that this puts you under more pressure.
    I've never really understood the logic of this.
    How can being 4 shots ahead of the field make it more difficult?
    That aside Adam Scott is a class player and he has won serious Tournaments so is not new to this experience.
    Whilst I can't abide Steve Williams he will be a settling influence especially if Adam wobbles.
    GMac is probably his most serious threat as he's the most recent Major winner and performed extremely well in the US Open.
    Adam needs to get off to a good start and not give shots back to the ensuing pack.
    He looks at the top of his game and a level Par round should see him over the winning line.
    In terms of Woods he's capable of shooting low but his game plan is one of playing relatively safe.
    This worked for him at Hoylake in 2006 but going into the last round he was leading the field which suits him.
    To win he has to change his game plan and be more aggressive.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm rooting for Woods but I think Scott will close it out no bother. If he does come unstuck for some reason (the wind?) then McDowell is the one I see coming through.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ 17
    You have demons in your head. Get over it. You have never transgressed?

  • Comment number 22.

    The forecast is 16-18mph winds for the late starters. I don't think a 4 shot lead is a gimme at lytham. One bad hole, and its down to 1. Scott seems to be playing with tremendous confidence, but you never know. I think recent US Open winner Simpson, was 6 shots back at one stage of the final round at Olympic.....So there has to be a chance for all those down at 3 under.

    For my money, it won't be Tiger winning. He has little confidence in his driver......Thus, he is constantly shooting long irons to the green, and they are not finding their range, specifically pin high. Also, he doesn't have the accuracy he once had with his wedge. Throw the wind into the equation.....Tiger stands no chance of winning today.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ 17
    You will be sadly disappointed. Things don't work that way. I wonder how many other such sentiments you harbour. There are other golfers you forgot to mention who by your high moral standards should not win anything anymore!!!!! Have a good day; enjoy the talent these golfers will display today. They are exceptional sportsmen.

  • Comment number 24.

    Adam Scott's usually rock solid when he has a lead going into final rounds. But then again he's never won a major and the wind could play a part. I'm hoping for big Ernie exactly 10 years from his last win.

  • Comment number 25.

    Saintgina - it is one thing to transgress, but to transgress daily for years when you promote yourself as a saint is unforgivable. To deceive your family, friends and fans in such a willing, calculated way is unforgivable. And if he hadn't been caught he would still be doing it. Wake up.

  • Comment number 26.

    anyone who roots for has to question their moral values. WHNE woods wins, society losses a point to anything thats good and moral. hes repulsive in everyshape and form.

    Watching rob hodgett, yorkshire blogger, mattefc etc swoon over woods is sickening tbh..

    btw how anyone can compare the morouse woods, to rger federer and ronnie osulivan in th way he plays the game must have a screw loose.

    Woods literally cannot hit a driver and has to hit driving irons, how negative is that? And how bland is that. Whereas ronnie and fed make their respective sports look like poetry, woods makes golf look genwinely like a good walk spoiled...

  • Comment number 27.

    I think if you look at Scott's performance's in his big wins at The Players & Tour Championships, and last year's WCG Bridgestone, he has had one difficult round in comparision to his other rounds, and that is the key factor today as he has not had that round this week so far, plus the increased wind will mean he will have to change his ball flight as it's one of the highest of the leaders. Despite all that, he is still in command of this tournament going into his final round and should be able to convert the 54 hole lead into his first Major

    http://carlothesportsman.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/open-championship-day-3-thoughts/

  • Comment number 28.

    @ 7

    Whilst I take you point regarding Luke Donald, as there is still time on his side to make an impact in the "Majors" you will note from my post, I was specifically directing my concerns at the general state of UK golf in Scotland, England & Wales.

    "I am particularly concerned about the state of golf in Scotland, England & Wales, when it come to "Majors" success".

    Luke Donald is a bit of an exception, after all he plays most of his golf in the US, where IMHO I feel more UK golfers need to dip into to improve their game to the highest level.

    Surely, the other 3 nations in the UK should be able take a lead from the recent successes of Eire/NI golfers of whom I have great respect for the way they have performed in the "Majors" of late.

    At least, players from Eire/NI are giving a real go, however the rest of the UK are really struggling to find anyone to challenge in the top 5/top 10 positions in "Majors" at present, let alone winning !!!

  • Comment number 29.

    I do not really have a preference for anyone but it has to be a someone who putts with a real putter! Not with a broomstick or a belly one. If Scott wins, he's (in my opinion) not a real champ!

  • Comment number 30.

    Hi my name is Jim Parker and I am the manager of the world famous, WATERLOO BOWLING GREEN in Blackpool which used to be filmed on the BBC. I have had many people asking me this week, has the practice putting green at Lytham been an old bowling green as it certainly looks like one. Any chance of finding out or asking MR Alliss to research for me, thank you.

  • Comment number 31.

    21

    He probably did transgress, but he probably did not make millions and millions of dollars on a fake image.

  • Comment number 32.

    Actually, I haven't 'transgressed', nor have I made any millions, alas!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    That'll be a no then

  • Comment number 34.

    "Justin Rose, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Paul Lawrie - one of those four is going to win"

    Colin Montgomerie

  • Comment number 35.

    Australian golf has found it's next great choker. Ian Baker Finch. Greg Norman and now Adam Scott

  • Comment number 36.

    Not much milage in ribbing Aussie golfers given that the last English winner was Faldo in '92!!! To put that in perspective some recent major winners were in nappies, Barrymore was still 'officially' straight and Leeds United were football league champions!!! Lol

 

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