Steve Scott's Road Back
Forgotten, Not Gone
Steve Scott hit bottom on Aug. 25, 1998. Two years earlier, a few days into his sophomore year al Florida, Scott had almost beaten Tiger Woods in the final of the U.S. Amateur. Now, though, he had just shot rounds of 72 and 7S and had missed the cut in the Amateur for the second year in a row completing a slide during which he had gone from ABC to MIA and from the No. 1 amateur ranking to out of the top 50. It was time to hang up the clubs.
For a month Scott knocked around Gainesville, Fla. He watched Woods and the other Tour pros on TV and played racquetball with his fianc�e and sometime caddie, Kristi Hommel. He saw a sports psychologist, caught up with friends and contemplated a career in broadcasting. "That might have been the lowest I've ever been," says Scott, who will watch this year's Masters on TV after making the field two years ago. (He shot 78-79 to miss the cut.) "It was not fun to play anymore."
It is now. After his long dry spell, Scott, a senior at Florida has won three of his last five tournaments, at one point leading the Gators to three straight team victories. Also, in a noncollegiate event, the New Year's Invitational at Lakewood Country Club in St. Petersburg in January, Scott's winning total of 17-under-par 271 broke by a shot the tournament record set by his coach, Buddy Alexander. Scott has climbed back to 33rd in the ranking, but, says Alexander, "I'm not sure I'd trade him for anybody in the country."
Scott, who finished 14th at last week's Carpet Capital Collegiate in Dalton, Ga., says he was unprepared for the attention he received after taking Woods to 38 holes in the Amateur. Shortly after Tiger turned pro three days later, Scott assumed the No. 1 ranking, although he hadn't won anything since junior golf. Critics convinced Scott, who normally hits a draw, that he needed to change the shape of his shots. He got worse.
Scott went winless as a sophomore, and as a junior, too. Then last May he mysteriously contracted the yips. He finished 81st at the NCAAs and, after falling apart with the 78 in the second qualifying round at the Amateur, decided it would be best to get away from the game.
Scott came back with a new perspective, if not a new putting stroke. The epiphany came in November, at a Dave Pelz short-game school in Boca Raton, Fla., where Scott learned to putt cross-handed with the claw grip—the fingers of the right hand hold both the shaft of the putter and the left wrist—made famous by Bernhard Langer. At the Feb. 13-14 Gator Invitational, Scott made a 10-footer on the final hole to win his first collegiate title. Later he learned that Woods, playing in the Buick Invitational, had also won that day. How about that? At last Scott had kept up with Tiger.
A Major Problem
The Senior tour's first major of the season, the Tradition, was full of flakes last week as snow shortened the event from 72 holes to 36. Gary McCord said he got out of bed last Friday and thought he was at his second home in Vail, Colo., evoking the famous quip from Jimmy Demaret, who upon waking to see snow at the 1962 Bing Crosby remarked, "I know I got loaded last night, but how did I wind up at Squaw Valley?"
Mother Nature ambushed the Cochise Course at Desert Mountain—about 25 miles north of Phoenix—early on Friday with a three-inch snowfall that canceled play. The weather was fine on Saturday, but when another inch of snow fell on Sunday morning, the Tradition was called, and Graham Marsh, a renowned globetrotter who says he's also been snowed out at tournaments in Japan and Switzerland, was the winner. It marked the first time one of the Senior tour's four majors had been shortened to 36 holes, and that was precisely the problem.