Why Adam Scott did not choke

Like a lot of die hard Australian golf fans, I stayed up to the wee hours on Monday morning to watch the last round of The Open. I’ve been doing it for years and it’s part of my yearly schedule.

There’s something about links golf that I find intriguing – the funny bounces, the wind and the unpredictability almost always ensures a world class player wins the event. It happens, but rarely does a complete outsider win the event like at the PGA and US Open. The Masters is such an exclusive field that only the very best (except for some amateurs) get a start. So for all the quirkiness, The Open might just be the best test of finding the “best” player.

As an Aussie, I was hoping to see Adam Scott take out the event. He played some great golf for the first 3 rounds and held a handy lead. Everything was going to plan until the very end when Ernie Els bucked the trend and Scott bogeyed the last four.

Social media and the general media have been pretty critical of Adam Scott. The choker tag has been flying around and then there has been the comparison to Greg Norman’s mishap at the 1996 US Masters.

I’ve battled to write this post. The easiest thing would be to write how he stuffed up, choked his bum off and let down himself and his country. At 4am on Monday morning that was the temptation. But I’ve sat on it for a while because I’m not convinced he choked. Is it possible he just made four bogeys at the worst possible time? Was it more bad luck rather than choking?

Let’s look at the round in more detail.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Early Holes[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

First off, he started badly. He bogeyed the first where he would normally make par, probably 90 times out of 100. He corrected things with a fantastic birdie on the second – his approach there might have been the best of the day. He then bogeyed the third and was looking shaky. He made a great save at 5 (so did McDowell), bogeyed the 6th (so did most others) and then let a golden chance slip for birdie at 7 (so did McDowell).

His big advantage early on was everyone else was going backwards. Tiger made a triple bogey, Snedeker went double double and nobody looked like they were handling the conditions that well (some of the earlier players had shot some impressive scores so it was possible). If Adam could have played a little better at the start he may have had a 6 or 7 shot lead by the end. Those early holes, as it turned out, had just as much influence as the ones at the finish.

From here Adam played some pretty good golf – solid would sum it up perfectly. When he birdied 14 he was almost home but this is where things got interesting.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]15th Hole[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

The bogey on 15 was not a disaster. He hit a perfect drive and had around 200 yards to get home. For Scott this called for a 4 iron and he missed the green to the left. The bunker shot was not easy, Tiger had a similar shot moments earlier and got the same result. A bogey 5. Let’s keep in mind that it was one really tough hole, certainly no snack.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]16th Hole[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

Adam didn’t do much wrong on 16. He found the fairway and hit his approach at the flag. Unfortunately the ball landed a tad too far, leaving him a 30 footer for birdie. Golf is not an exact science, there’s every chance that on another day that same swing would leave the ball a little closer. Still, there wasn’t too much damage done. His first putt went left, leaving a tricky putt for par. I say tricky because it wasn’t a gimme. It was more than 2 feet and probably closer to four. These putts are never easy at the best of times, but with a major title on the line they get tougher. The fact is the pros do miss smallish putts from time to time. Wind, fast and hard greens only adds to the difficulty. They do miss (don’t we all?). It didn’t appear to be a bad putt either. He hit a fair chunk of the hole and the ball spun out. It didn’t look yippy or tentative – from where I was sitting he put a good stroke on it.

Compounding Adam’s miss on 16 was Els sinking his birdie on the last. All of a sudden his lead was cut from 3 to 1. This was significant as the last two holes are tough. Very tough. All week Nick Faldo (and probably everyone else) was saying these holes were going to be a thorough test for the potential champion. He proved to be right.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]17th Hole[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

Despite the bogeys, Scott hit another brilliant drive on 17. This was not a swing of someone choking – it was pure as it rifled down the middle of the fairway. It was a good a drive as he had hit all week. Obviously the second shot was not great and I think he said that was the worst for the week. The ball took a big bounce and ended in some gnarly rough – from here he was always making 5. Should he have hit the ball right of the flag? Yes, but I’m sure that is what he was trying to do. When you hit a bad shot it doesn’t go where you want it to. To me it was simply a bad swing at the wrong time. And quite possibly his approach there wasn’t too far from being perfect. He undoubtedly pulled it, but a fraction less and he was a hero. It’s a fine line.

Scores level.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]18th Hole[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

The 18th was no snack either. While not as long, the bunkers are penal. By this stage things were unraveling for him. I personally think he should have taken an iron from the tee. It’s easy for me to say, as this still was no guarantee to find the fairway (he missed the fairway in the 1st round taking iron), but it probably would have increased his chances. On the other hand, if he did make a better swing, his 3 wood would have set up a better chance for birdie. And this is the beauty of the game. It challenges you mentally. You’ve got to make some decisions. Do I go for it or do I lay up? Sometimes there’s no right answer. If his 3 wood did find the fairway and he then proceeded to make a birdie we all would have marveled at his courage and fortitude. The guy makes a bogey and now he is a choker – it’s a tad unfair.

Has it happened he pulled his tee shot (did you get the feeling he was going to do this?) into one of those horrible pot bunkers. He pitched it out and then hit a great shot from 150 yards. Again, was his pure 272nd shot one of a choker? It was impressive. For all money I had him missing the green and taking double. But he didn’t. He got it together and played a great shot. As we know the putt missed. It wasn’t a bad attempt – it had a chance to go in. But it didn’t.

And that’s golf my friends. It’s hardly a fair game and it can drive any sane person mad. I’ve thought a lot about those last few holes and I’m not sure he could’ve done much differently. Sure, he hit some poor shots but he played some beauties down the stretch. Also, Scott had the most experienced caddy on his bag. Steve Williams has done it all and I’m sure between them there wasn’t a lot of choking going on. I bet they did everything they could possibly do.

Els played a great game of golf. He actually wasn’t too far from going lower. He took three from the edge on 9, repeated that on 11, missed a very gettable birdie on 16 (after hitting a fantastic chip shot) and played 17 perfectly. His score of 68 beat his nearest challenger by four strokes – at this level that is a significant achievement. So just maybe The Open Championship once again found the best player. Adam Scott was unlucky but he certainly isn’t a choker.

What are your thoughts?

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43 Comments

  • Des Heffernan

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    I felt for Adam because he played the better golf all week and dererved to win. On the final day he wasn’t palying as well and let’s not forget the conditions were more difficult than the first three days so you can’t blame him for hitting a few shots off-course like most of the field. I don’t think he chocked and I was really impressed with the way he handled himself after the game.However, he did make a comment that I picked up on which made me wonder if he got ahead of himself.He said something like after the 14th hole he felt that he had the cup in his hands.Hopefully, he will learn a lot from this and stay in the moment until he runs out of holes.Easier said than done.I expect he will because he’s no fool. I hope he doesn’t take any notice of Faldo’s comment about this scaring him for life. I seem to remember that Faldo lost a few tournaments down the stretch and he seemed to have a pretty good career. What a stupid comment to make. Go Scotty!! Cheers, Des.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      Des: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You make a good point, it was definitely tougher on the last day. There’s also no doubt that he got ahead of himself. Like a lot of the comments here I hope he learns from it and comes back stronger than ever.

      As for Faldo’s comments I wouldn’t take too much notice. These guys get paid to be contentious and have to say things to make the coverage interesting – so some of their ramblings just blurt out. I doubt Faldo believes in what he said too.

  • EsteKnows

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    Hi Cameron
    Firstly what is luck?is it real is a mith some excuse?what is it really?
    Then we come to understand that in sports or in life in general luck is just a walking stick something to blame for all the bad things that can happen to you or in this case Adam Scott ,as far as I’m concerned Adam choke no other thing them that He was not good emough on the day and his pants or undies were paying for his luck of composure at the very last 4 holes Ihave been following golf for to many years for someone to tell me if the balls get on the green is good luck and if it does not is bad luck absolute noncence ,what about the ability of players to
    Make things happens? You make your own luck!!please don’t give me excuses.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      EsteKnows: I’m really not sure what you’re saying here. I’m all for people not agreeing with me (and I think you are) but I can’t understand your message. Please take the time to construct a clearer message.

      Thanks for trying,

      Cameron

  • Steady

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    Strachs,
    Adam said himself that he had the oppurtunity to win but was unable to complete they way he wanted to.El’s himself said “I feel for Adam I really do. No matter what happened today he is still a Champion player in my eyes.” That’s the humbleness of a true Champion.
    I don’t think Adam was making any acceptance speech in his head at the turn. However, he knew, coming down the stretch of a major though. Unless we too have been in the same position in a british open
    Would love to have heard what Stevie Williams and Adam’s converation for the last 5 holes.
    I really hope this strengthens Adam’s mental toughness as he is a champion player no matter how many majors he wins or loses.
    Media hype and bs that goes with it make a lot of talking points about “choking”. Commentators spruiking about choking (unless they have been in the position to comment ) need simply to say “That’s golf” you take the good with the bad.
    Hate to say it “but at the end of the day it’s a game”.( we all play and love)
    Ta Steady

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      Steady: AS will be kicking himself for a while. I’m hoping he learns from it and comes back for a major win sometime soon – he is a very very good player. Most of us probably can’t appreciate how well Scott can play.

      Thanks for posting.

  • Rob

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    Hi Cam

    My only comment is that his putts were short all day. He was dribbling his putts. He wasn’t trying to hole them as he did in the first 3 rounds. He was protecting his lead. I can remember Nicklaus in a similar situation in the 1980 US Open at Baltusrol. He kept lagging his putts PAST the hole. And a couple dropped in. Adam didn’t “choke” but he didn’t play the game that got him there.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      Rob: I agree about his putting. There was definitely a bit of nervousness there that’s for sure. I was going to mention it but he did make a couple of good putts. His putt on 5 was superb and his putt for birdie on 14 wasn’t too shabby (considering he may have thought that was the sealer). No doubt his game wasn’t as good and I’m sure you agree this doesn’t mean he choked.

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    I should also add that I don’t think Jean Van De Velde choked that much either. The poor guy, he didn’t do too much wrong. He hit his second shot exactly where he needed – right of the green. With out of bounds so close to the left of the green, any shot going for the green could go OOB.

    His ball then hit the grandstand, then hit the concrete path surrounding the burn and then found its way into the worse rough on the golf course. If the ball stayed in the grandstand he wins easily. If it comes back into the water he most likely drops and wins by one.

    For the ball to finish where it did it gave him little chance. He was lucky to make the playoff.

  • Terry

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    It has been suggested that his caddy Williams let him down on the final 5 holes. Any thoughts about that?

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      Terry: I personally believe that caddies are a bit on the overrated side. At the end of the day they can’t hit the ball for you. Sure, they offer advice and support but they can’t do anything really to impact the outcome. I know this view is probably going to upset some caddies, but it’s what I believe.

      All Williams could really do is be positive and help Adam choose the right club. I didn’t see anything that would make me think he caused any issues. Have you heard anything specific?

  • brian deen

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    Cam, like you I stayed up to watch what I thought would be a wonderful win for Adam Scott and Australian golf. I was disappointed like most people, and have since played a number of rounds with some of my mates, who couldn’t wait to say what a choker, just like Norman. I defended both of these great golfers by saying, I have seen you all miss a short putt for par to win a golf ball, so what would any of us know about the pressures of playing for the greatest major trophy known to golf. Adam Scott, Cam. as you rightly point out played magnificent golf, even in the last four holes, he played beautifully and had his fair share of bad luck to lose. But like all great athletes in any sport, he didn’t ponder on what might have been, he knew he had done his best.
    Ernie Els, the true great ambassador for golf, I feel,felt every emotion along with Scott, to win is to win, but to win due to someone else’s misfortune, would be diffucult.

    Regards to you Cam. Brian

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      Brian: I find a lot of Aussies are quick to sink the slipper. We even turn on our own. Not sure if this is due to a lot of media doing the same or a bit of tall poppy. Since doing this website I’ve been quite surprised at how fellow golf pros (who are in the media) treat these superstars – some commentators quickly forget how hard the game is.

      Thanks for sharing

  • Graham Pratt

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    Cameron I agree with your analysis except to say Adam probably tightened up a lttle over the last few holes.
    The key question is will he now do a McIlroy in 2011 after Rory lost it on the final 18 at the Master’s but then dominated the US Open, Scotty needs to contend seriously at the PGA coming soon for his well being in the critical area of mental toughness.
    The Open is in my view golf’s greatest tournament.!! Well done Adam Scott.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      Graham: Thanks for posting. Yep, there’s no doubt he was nervous and got a little tight. Let’s hope he can come back and win one soon. It would be good to see an Aussie win again – we’ve been in a bit of a drought of late. South Africa and Ireland are miles in front and in the last 15 years we have won the same amount of majors as New Zealand!!!

  • Jeff Reuter

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    I’m with you, Cameron.
    How dare anyone say he choked when there were some really great shots mixed up with a couple of iffy ones — that’s golf, dammit! The Big Easy just clicked on the last 4 holes and fired his butt off; he is still a good pro and can take advantage of a good run when it happens.
    The same thing happened to me today in our usual mid week day; had 10 points on the front nine and 21 on the back and shot the lights out! That’s why we play this magic game!

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 26, 2012

      Jeff: Sure is a magic game. It’s magic and annoying all at once. Els certainly played a great second nine – nobody else really got close to him. Els has played well this year and it is good to see him back in the winners circle – he is certainly too good not to be playing in the US Masters.

  • Rourkus

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    Did Adam choke? not at all did he play a protect my lead game on Sunday? I believe he did and this was his only mistake! Adam Scott is a fantastic player and is a gracious non winner,as for luck be it good or bad if you play golf you know, a bad shot can hit a tree and bounce into the fairway or deeper into the scrub it exists accept it.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 27, 2012

      Rourkus: Thanks for posting. It can be really hard to not think about the finish line. I’m sure upon reflection Scott will go over that round many times and learn from any errors. Lets hope he comes back stronger and wins one soon.

      Cheers,

      Cameron

  • Terry

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    There was a suggestion on another blog that Williams lost the plot on the final 5 holes and was slinking around, without producing the forthrightness that he is renowned for. He has a hostory of over-ruling Woods, so why didn’t he do it with Adam?
    Personally, I don’t think much of him anyway, but that is only from what I have seen and read about him. He was quick to suggest that it was his influence when Adam won just after he began working for him, but there has been no comment this time.
    Anyway, onwards and upwards – I am more concerned with trying to play automatic golf after purchasing your latest offering: best so far: a lousy 31 points!

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 27, 2012

      Terry: Williams is definitely a different kind of cat. Certainly a hard arse and it would be an interesting debate to whether or not he did influence AS in a bad way. At the end of the day my opinion is it’s up to the player unless of course the caddy has a complete meltdown and loses the plot.

      Give me a call/email re your game – happy to discuss any issues with you.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply July 26, 2012

    Very thought provoking. Makes me wonder though what “choking” actually is. If we all agree you can get “tight” but not be “choking” and you can get “tentative” and “nervous” but not be “choking”, what is it? Seems to me its all semantics at the end of the day. The guy gave it his best shot and someone pipped him. He learns stuff, he goes away and probably does better next time. Its golf, its life. Every great champion has similar tales to tell. I reckon these guys are courageous to even put themselves in the position to “fail”. Good luck to him

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 27, 2012

      Thanks GP: Always good to hear your perspective. I started wondering the same thing while writing – “what is choking?”. There’s every chance that we all “choke” if choking is getting nervous and tight is a symptom. For me choking is getting away from you typically do – for golfers this is over thinking, and taking too long to hit the ball.

      I agree 100% – Scott gave it a go, he was in the arena and gave it one hell of a shot. I dug this up from a while ago (some bad links) that shines a bit more light on the subject. Some of the comments are good too – Good ‘ole GP gets a mention 🙂

  • JD Williams

    Reply Reply July 27, 2012

    Cam
    Good analysis. I always wonder when announcers talk about choking. I mean, anyone can have a bad day, a bad hole, or a bad series of holes—even when there’s no pressure at all. I’ve shot some terrible golf just goofing around with me wife or one of by friends; no bets or anything else involved. So you can have a bad day on the course at any time.
    I also notice that the announcers never say that anyone choked on Thursday, Friday or Saturday when they have a bad round. They just mark it up as a bad round. They only haul out “the c-word” on Sunday when someone messes up after getting the lead.
    I agree with you that Adam hit too many good pressure shots to deserve the choker label.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply July 27, 2012

      JD: it seems they like to talk about choking to enhance the coverage or their story. In Adam’s case I really don’t think he did too much wrong. Thanks for sharing.

      Cameron

  • allan kenny

    Reply Reply July 27, 2012

    CAM i noticed on the greens adam didnot take practice strokes he put the putter behind the ball and fired he seemed to me to take a little longer to put on the last day and was just missing holes like he used to close but not in.And he hit his aproach on 17 the same place as tiger &els but ells ball rolled a fraction more and found the gap between bunkers where tigers &scotts rolled back into bunker,very unlucky the golf gods werenot smilling on them both.Allan

  • Cam280

    Reply Reply July 27, 2012

    G’day Cam, I stayed up and watched the final round but fell asleep on the 13th. Woke up as Ernie was playing the 18th, awesome round!. Then to watch Golden boy catch the bogey train in I began to choke. It was scripted to perfection, he didn’t choke, he didn’t have bad luck, he just started to use par as a bench mark for his shots!.
    Subconsciously Scott was giving himself a bogey for his poor results from the fairway!. How many times do we get down when we miss a green, more so than a recovery from a tee shot. Same deal but different positive/negative momentum getting closer to the hole. The final tee shot went astray and the recovery was awesome definitely a change in momentum but like marathon running, when the elastic band snaps there is no catching the break away leaders. Even if its what it was, 2m to get into a play off!.

  • Shikha

    Reply Reply July 27, 2012

    But then that’s golf right…. I am a keen golfer and how often have we said… So done tell me why I play this game…
    For Adam he held the game for four days.. It broke me heart to watch him lose the trophy. I don’t think he chocked. Look how well he held the four days…maybe just a littl e over confident.. Human nature right… The end was near he was leading.. He got careless and laid back! Lots of really good lessons for him … Which if he considers he will definately walk with the next trophy.. Good luck Adam..

  • 3 Putt

    Reply Reply July 30, 2012

    Why didn’t Scott pull the driver out on 17 or 18 like Els? He was killiing his driver all day. Poor judgement perhaps, but I don’t think Scott choked. You can’t hit your (3rd shot) approach from 150 yards on the 72nd hole of a major to 8 feet if you are choking. What is often overlooked by all the naysayers that Els was the only player in the top 12 at the start of the round to shoot under par. Did all the other 11 ‘choke’ as well? G Mac, Woods, Snedeker all struggled big time. Els also had some close calls in majors early in his career only to finish 2nd or 3rd. Rory McIlroy shot up an 80 when leading the masters but then came out and won the US Open. Hopefully Scott will come out stronger for it and win a handful of majors. He is only just 32 and is the only player in the world that has won at least one tournament a year for the last decade. That is some record.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 3, 2012

      3 Putt: It’s a tough game sometimes. Ernie hit the right shots at the right time and is crowned the champion. If Scott hit the driver and lost his ball we’d be screaming at him for not playing safe. It is what it is – and it does seems AS has moved on and has the right attitude.

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply August 2, 2012

    Having given this great thought has he not just had four bad holes at the wrong end of the tournament.It happens to all of us it’s called golf.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Troy Vayanos

    Reply Reply October 15, 2012

    Great post Cameron,

    It’s nice to read a post that actually supports Adam Scott and doesn’t criticize him for his efforts at the 2012 British Open.

    Just getting into the position he did at a major is an unbelievable achievement. Adam played of 3 1/2 rounds of great golf at the highest level. He should be applauded for this and not condemned.

    Too much is made of winning these days and not enough is said about great performances that don’t quite get rewarded the same.

    Cheers

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 16, 2012

      Troy: Yep, I find that most journalism focuses on the negative and not on the “real” story. Adam played very well – and I still think he was a little unlucky – he was just a fraction away from winning the thing. Ernie played a great last day and the golfing gods were on his side.

      Thanks for posting.

  • David

    Reply Reply December 14, 2012

    Great read. Agree fully. Whilst not a major we have all been there be it a normal Club round. Decisions are made and we have to live with them.
    Guess what, that pretty well sums up life too don`t you think?

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply December 15, 2012

      David: I know it a cliche, but you really can’t do anything about the odd bad shot. You’ve gotta keep it to one shot at a time.

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