Sunday, June 24, 2018

Scott returns from Masters break for Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Adam Scott never has had to take this much time walking from the clubhouse to the practice range at TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship.

He can't take more than a few steps without a player or caddie stopping to congratulate him for his Masters win last month. So many fans have pressed against the fence to get his autograph that it nearly collapsed.

Scott virtually disappeared after making a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to become the first Australian to win the Masters. He was in New York for a couple of days and then headed to the Bahamas, where he has a home.

He usually takes a few weeks off after a major to decompress. This time he waited an extra week before picking up a club.

"I've had a really nice break since the Masters, which I had planned anyway," Scott said Wednesday. "But it was even better because I was floating around on the clouds the last three weeks. It's been an overwhelming time for me.

While in the Bahamas, he had a morning routine that reminded him he won the Masters: "When I walk in the closet … I put the green jacket on every morning. … It's the first couple days I haven't had it with me, so that's been a lot of fun just wearing it around the house."

The Players Championship, which begins today, features the year's strongest, deepest field, competing on the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, which can be challenging, frustrating, punishing and rarely dull. Scott won the Players in 2004 after hitting a 5-iron into the water on No. 18 and making a 10-foot bogey putt to win by a shot.

"It's a nice week for me to come back to Sawgrass and the Players because I've had such a great run here over the years," Scott said. "I hopefully can …come back down to earth and play some good golf."

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell last won in the United States on courses designed by Dye: McIlroy at the 2011 PGA Championship (Kiawah Island) and 2012 BMW Championship (Crooked Stick), McDowell the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., last month.

"I think Pete Dye designed a certain type of golf course," McDowell said. "He likes to penalize the player in his own kind of unique way, and this golf course certainly has its dangers. But it's certainly scorable at the same time."

McIlroy just wants to make the cut, which he has failed to do in three previous trips to the tournament. "The first year I came here, I was in Vegas the week before," he deadpanned. "That didn't help. The second year was my 21st birthday. That didn't help. And last year, I don't have an excuse. I just didn't play well."

Four days ago, the course resembled a swamp because of heavy rain. By the time players began arriving, the firm, fast conditions had been restored.

"They've done an amazing job of getting this place dry and playable," Tiger Woods said. "Hopefully it'll stay hot and the wind will stay up so it'll dry out a little bit more."

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