Scott Piercy is angry. He won't swing until he's ready. He stands over his ball in the 7th fairway and waits. Five minutes tick by. His playing partners fidget. Anytime you're ready, Scott. But he won't pull the trigger. I'm not playing, he tells himself, until the screaming inside stops.
It's the final round of the 2008 Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic. Piercy, a 29-year-old Nationwide tour rookie, spent the first three rounds letting clubs and curses fly. "I was acting like an idiot, so angry at myself for not playing to my potential," he says. After shooting himself out of the tournament with a Saturday 74, he decides to turn Sunday into an anger-management experiment. "I refused to hit a single shot while mad. I even drew a smiley face on my ball, as a smart-aleck reminder."
Eventually, it works. The anger subsides on number 7, and Piercy swings. He proceeds to birdie nine of the final 12 holes, shooting a 64.
Within two months he had won two Nationwide events and secured his PGA Tbur card for 2009. "I realized the biggest thing holding me back was my attitude," Piercy says. "It was a huge stepping stone. And yeah, I still draw happy faces on my ball."
The sun is setting over Doral Resort on the eve of the 2013 WGC Cadillac Championship. Piercy sits in a clubhouse lounge, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Blue Monster. He sports laceless Converse sneakers and moussed hair. He looks older than 34. It's the eyes. Their surrounding creases convey a "man, I've seen some s--" weariness that you don't see on the Rickie Fowlers of the world—wrinkles acquired over the course of six years battling debt and doubt on golf's mini-tours.
Nearby, Luke Donald is chatting with a reporter. One week earlier at the Accenture Match Play, Piercy throttled Donald, 7 and 6. Says Piercy, "I don't want this to sound like 'poor me,' but every person who won that week got interviewed right then and there on the green. And I beat the No. 3 golfer in the world handily, and there's nobody there to talk to me." He waits a beat. "Then again, they probably weren't ready for it to end on the 12th hole."
Anonymity isn't new to Piercy. When he swaps his sponsor-laden clothes for shorts and a backward cap, half the pros in the locker room don't recognize him. He's hard to categorize. Though he has rocketed up the World Ranking to 37th, he's a top 40 hit without a hook. "I'm not a young gun. I'm not a marquee name. I'm not an iconic older player. Still, it'd be nice to get acknowledgement. But I'm not a big talker. I let my sticks talk for me."
Lately his sticks won't shut up. Since 2011 Piercy has won twice on Tour and banked about $5 million. Last year he beat a solid field at the RBC Canadian Open (which included 10 major winners) and punched his ticket to his first Masters.
"Not a lot of guys have Scott's firepower," says Brendan Steele, who played with Piercy on the Nationwide tour. "When he gets it going, he's up there with Tiger and Phil. He could do some damage at Augusta."
Indeed, Piercy has Masters-caliber muscle off the tee, thrives on Sundays (he ranked fifth on Tour last year in final-round scoring) and can go lower than the national limbo champion. It makes you wonder: Can he become the first Masters rookie since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to grab the green jacket?