Playing at the Wentworth Club for the first time since 2006, Adam Scott shot 65 in Round 1 of the BMW PGA Championship. Veteran Aussie journalist Bernie McGuire spoke to Scott about his formative years on the European Tour and earliest memories of Wentworth.
To say much has happened in Adam Scott’s professional life in the 15 years since he last competed in the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth is a gross understatement.
Scott had made his Wentworth debut five years earlier with just the one pro victory on his golfing CV and that was in denying Justin Rose, his now long-time good friend, victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Though arriving at Wentworth some four months later, event organisers had an inkling of Scott’s potential star power as evident in the groupings for the opening two rounds.
“I can still remember the first time I played Wentworth back in 2001 and I was grouped with Darren Clarke and Nick Faldo,” recalled Scott.
“It was a big occasion in my then short pro career with Faldo a six-time major champion and Darren then one of the best players on the European Tour, so it was a big grouping.”
Little-known Scot Andy Oldcorn won by two shots in that tournament 20 years ago, Faldo finished third, Clarke shared eighth place and Scott was just outside the top 30.
Rewind a year to 2000 and Scott teed-up in just a third European Tour event at the Benson and Hedges International Open at the famed Belfry course near Birmingham in England.
This writer had not met Scott but a colleague and the now retired Norman Dabell arrived at the Belfry having spent the week prior covering the Moroccan Open in Marrakech.
Remember, it was those years when golf was covered without the benefit of SKY TV nor the internet. Norman bailed me up and could not stop singing the praise of Scott as the new Tiger Woods, and likening Scott’s swing as a mirror to Tiger’s.
I grabbed a copy of Golf Weekly that contained a picture of Scott in full swing in the report from the Moroccan Open and Norman was not wrong.
I wasted little time introducing myself to my fellow Australian and thus began a now 21-year working friendship with Adam, and with his share of sixth that week, my lead story in then writing for Australian Associated Press given the result was enough to secure his Tour card for 2001.
Jump ahead slightly to the 2004 Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth and Scott was now genuine star quality.
He’d won four times on the European Tour and arrived in leafy Surrey virtually two months to the day since capturing the prestigious Players Championship on the PGA Tour.
Scott’s win in the PGA Tour’s flagship was a second of now 14 PGA Tour victories and at the time lifted him to a then career high of 12th on the Official World Golf Rankings. In arriving at Wentworth as No. 13 in the world, the Australian was now one of the best players in the world.
Only Ernie Els, at then No. 3 in the world, and fellow South African Retief Goosen at No. 10 were ranked higher than Scott.
The champion Australian was again grouped in illustrious company teeing-up alongside Lee Westwood, already a European No.1, and reigning Open Champion, Ben Curtis.
Scott played 13 European Tour member qualifying events in 2004 and while he also played a similar number in 2009, for the past decade he’s played no more than 10 a season while since 2011, he’s played just one regular European Tour event on European soil in that time, that being the 2017 Scottish Open.
That stat is thankfully out the window this week and with the now 41-year-old returning to Wentworth as a Masters Champion, indeed the first Australian to be fitted with an Augusta National members green jacket.
In the intervening 15-years Scott reached the pinnacle of the game climbing to world No. 1 for an 11-week run in mid-2014. He’s tasted individual success in eight different countries and none sweeter, aside from the 2013 Masters, than his five-shot victory romp in capturing the 2009 Australian Open at the Alister MacKenzie-designed New South Wales Golf Club at the entrance to Botany Bay in Sydney.
The sight of Scott proudly admiring the names of the Stonehaven Trophy that first Sunday in December 2009 is a memory that will never be erased from the heart of this golf writer.
Finally, the wait is over and Scott has returned to Wentworth to be one of nine major champions contesting this week’s BMW PGA Championship.
“I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since I was here last and while remembering who I played with back in 2001, I have so many great memories of this golf course and this area of Surrey,” said Scott, smiling broadly.
“I spent a lot of time here in my first few years playing the European Tour and I’ve watched closely over the last 10 years or so, and all the work that has gone into this golf course.
“Wentworth has always had such a great feel about this event and I am happy that it’s fitted into my schedule this year, to be able to come back and play the course and a course they’ve made great changes to and is also in tremendous condition.
“There’s an atmosphere unique to Wentworth. It’s like the Open Championship that has its own atmosphere and so does Wentworth. It’s why I am looking forward to the whole atmosphere that I remember from nearly 20-years ago.”
Scott is among just four Australians competing this week; they also include long-time great friends Wade Ormsby and Scott Hend along with reigning Scottish Open winner Min Woo Lee.