The title of "best player not to win a major" must go to different golfers at different times, depending on how they are faring. The current winner in the category, or at least the owner of the title, has to be Adam Scott, the 32-year-old Australian who won his country's Masters on Nov. 18 at the sweet Kingston Heath club in Melbourne.
Now, this isn't to say that golfers such as Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, and Ian Poulter also don't warrant consideration for the dubious honour of BPWM - best player without a major. But Scott was nothing less than dominant in the way he played linksy Kingston Heath while shooting 17-under-par 271 to win the Talisker Masters. (And, of course, how can you not like a tournament sponsored by a company that makes single-malt at its distillery on the Isle of Skye?)
Not only did Scott plot his way magisterially around Kingston Heath, part of Melbourne's stretch of tremendous sand belt courses, he started the last round a shot out of the lead and then came up with a 67 to win by four shots over Poulter. Scott thereby defeated one of the game's best match-play competitors head on. Poulter is a fierce Ryder Cupper for the European team, but Scott went well clear of him in the last round. Poulter, in turn, finished four more shots ahead of New Zealanders Gareth Paddison and Mark Brown. They tied for third.
Scott is one of the most enigmatic players of the current era. He of course held a four-shot lead in the Open Championship last July with four holes to play. But he finished with four bogeys and Ernie Els won by a shot. Els poured in a 15-foot birdie putt on the last green to put the pressure on Scott behind him. Scott had posted seven top-10 finishes in majors, and was until his last quartet of holes looking a sure thing to finally win his first major. But he couldn't make par on the last hole to get into a playoff, and so he posted just another top-10 finish in a major.
"Just," though, doesn't do the unfortunate tale justice. Scott had played snappy stuff until those last four holes, but then, well, he lost his form as he made one mistake after another. Would the collapse hurt him long-term? How would he cope with the disappointment?
It wasn't long before Scott was saying that he had closed the door on that Open, and was ready to move on. Here is a golfer who has long had one of the most impressive swings in the game. He uses a belly putter and acknowledges that it has helped him immensely. Still, one had to wonder if he could back up his talk of recovery from his Open difficulties with a win this year.
Scott had won at least one tournament every year since 2001, having turned pro the year before. The 2006 Players Championship was his biggest win - that "almost a major," or, as it's often called, the fifth major. But there are only four majors. There's no such thing as a fifth major. Scott knew that when he won the Players in 2006 and he sure knew it after he'd failed to win last summer's Open after taking what appeared an insurmountable lead to the last four holes.
Scott came to the Australian Masters (as most people know it, and as it really is, even for single-malt devotees), wanting to win before the end of the year. And win he did, in a convincing manner. He slipped on the (much too big) gold jacket that goes to the winner, and then his thoughts turned to another Masters, the one played every April at the Augusta National Golf Club. A true major, that is.
"Maybe I can set the theme of winning jackets and turn it green next year before I come back to defend," Scott said at the prize ceremony.
Scott tied for second in the 2011 Masters and was eighth this year. Now that he has one Masters - the down-under version - on his list of wins, can he win the Masters in Augusta?
Adam Scott, the BPWM of the moment, appears primed to make a run at that major, and, perhaps, to win his first major.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein