Straight up – I’d have been standing in a water works puddle if I were Adam Scott. Scott is a G. After such a stunning lack of composure on his last four holes, to tourn around and actually maintain his composure as he processed what had to feel like grief was almost as improbable as his epic collapse at The Open. In that position, staring at a ball about one foot from the hole, after a missed par putt, I’d have degenerated into Momma Payne hysterics. Stevie Williams, my caddie, would have had to putt my tap-in for me, because I’d have either been rampaging around the green like a babbling lunatic or crumpled in the fetal position, sobbing like I lost my job and the love of my life left me for the man that fired me.
"I know I let a really great chance slip through my fingers today," said Scott.
Uh, yeah, homie.
This is probably a crab thing to say, but, these days, golf is really only compelling when Tiger wins or another golfer chokes away a lead (i.e. Rory McIlroy shooting an 80 in the final round of the 2011 Masters). That’s why, heading into the second half of the back-nine, I was set to text my Pops something like, “Tiger’s done. No drama. This is cornball.” And then Scott bogeyed the 15th hole and then the 16th and Ernie Els birdied the 18th and – WOAH! – all of a sudden there was some intrigue.
Still, with a two-stroke lead heading to the 17th, there didn’t seem to be a truly plausible scenario other than “Scott fumbles his way to his first major win.” Except, the unthinkable/unfathomable happened and homeboy bogeyed his final two holes.
Of course, this called to mind what happened to Scott’s idol and fellow Australian, Greg Norman. In 1996, after torching everybody for three rounds, Norman completely fell apart in the last round, shooting a 78. When his rival, Nick Faldo, dropped in his final birdie putt for the win, he didn’t celebrate. He just hugged Norman and said, "I don't know what to say. I just want to give you a hug. I feel horrible about what happened. I'm so sorry."
What happened to Scott was different, though. Unlike Norman, who started crumbling early in the round, Scott’s collapse was late, quick and decisive, with a win so close that he could probably feel the Claret Jug in his hands. Walking to the 15th tee, Scott had the confident, knowing grin of an eventual champion. The coronation was beginning and, then, well…
As a spectator, I have never been so compelled with empathy for an athlete that, for the most part, I don’t care about.
I felt sympathy – not empathy – for Chris Webber, same for Scott Norwood. The Fab Five remains my favorite college basketball squad of all-time, so when Webber called that timeout and sealed a win for North Carolina in the 1993 NCAA Championship, I grieved with him, like he was family. Norwood’s wide-right, missed field goal in Super Bowl XXV hit me hard. I’m a Buffalonian and as a kid in junior high, I thought I was a Bill. Me, my Pops and my two cousins knelt on the floor holding hands as Norwood kicked that field goal. I’m not exaggerating here, but it’s possible that – as an irrational child, not in control of my emotions – I felt worse than Norwood when the football it sailed to the right and the New York Giants started celebrating.
What I felt for Scott, however, was akin to the sadness that comes from hearing or reading about a tragedy in a foreign country. And, yes, golf is just a game, but the game is played by humans and humanity takes over when you know an athlete just experienced something that is slowly decomposing his insides into sludge.
That’s why, in reaction to Els’s win, Els was consoling Scott, instead of Scott congratulating Els.
Ultimately, this kind of loss can break a dude. Or, the dude can bounce back. After young McIlroy shot the worst round in history by any golfer leading after the third round of the Masters, he came back and won the US Open by eight shots and set another record with an aggregate score of 268.
Well, the PGA Championship begins in a few weeks and I’ll be rooting for Scott. The way he lost The Open hit me in the soft spot. I’m now an invested fan. Pardon me while I go start the #TeamScott hashtag.