It was, of course, supposed to be easy for Adam Scott at Royal Melbourne on Sunday.
A four shot lead on a course he knows well and had breezed around one over level 66s for three days seemed insurmountable, but we all well remember the Masters Champion losing a four shot lead with the same number of holes to play in last year’s British Open.
Leads – no matter if you are the Masters Champion or not – are never as easy to protect as the spectator imagines. The Queenslander had lost his lead to Matt Kuchar by the time the American teed off the difficult 16th, but right at the end Kuchar found the same island of heath that caught Billy Dunk in the 1975 Chrysler Classic. Dunk famously saved four but Kuchar could manage only a miserable six and that handed the trophy to Scott.
If that Open at Lytham was a disaster of monumental proportions, his win at Augusta only nine months later was a triumph of equal proportion. He proved on those final two greens at Augusta that he did indeed have what ever it takes to make the great shot at the end of a big championship.
Since then he has lost another real chance to win The Open but, in fairness, Phil Mickelson played the final six holes at Muirfield earlier this year as well as any man has finished off a big championship. Mickelson though is an ageing 43-year-old and one assumes his chance of passing Tiger Woods in the rankings of top players is gone.
Scott in contrast is sitting a place below Woods and perhaps he has a chance to ascend to the very top. That top place seems to matter more in tennis and there it has a material effect on the draw. In golf it matters not.
Woods has won 14 major championships, an astonishing number given he began back in 1997 when the conventional wisdom was that there were too many good players for one ever to dominate.
Scott has the most elegant and powerful of games. His swing looks perfect, or at least as perfect as one can make something that can never really be perfected.
Woods is driven by the knowledge he has never quite mastered the tee-to-green play in the fashion of Ben Hogan. Scott drives the ball incredibly well and his play with the longest club is of a quality Woods can only dream of.
The knock on Scott has always been with what conventionally is the shortest club, but Scott employs the awful, and soon-to-be-banned, putter with a shaft that runs almost all the way to his chin. Some have claimed in all ridiculousness that his time as a contender will be over once the anchoring ban is implemented on New Year’s Day 2016.
I don’t for a minute think that will happen. He will either move his top hand an inch away from his sternum and carry on with the long one or he will go back to the traditional and putt well enough to keep winning big events.
The critics also forget that he is hardly a great putter with the long putter. It was an awful three putt on the 16th green at Lytham that precipitated his demise there and he holed very little of consequence at Augusta on the final day aside from the two famous putts right at the end.
If major championships are the measure, Peter Thomson with his five Open championships is our finest player. Greg Norman too has a legitimate claim to that place right at the top, but it is in a way sad that Norman never quite won as many championships as his physical talent suggested. Scott has a chance to get somewhere near Thomson’s tally.
These past few years have shown he knows how to give himself a legitimate chance on the final nine holes. He is still a young man and he is a strong one too and that is not something to be underestimated in this era of crazy power.
No one truly knows where he will finish up from an historical perspective, but these past weeks we have watched a player right at the top of his powers. The winning wasn’t so easy this week as last but we now look to the World Cup this week and then the Open at Royal Sydney.
Here is a player who is a joy to watch as few do it so elegantly and easily. Mickelson and Els have shown that 40 is no barrier to major success in this era and that gives Scott many years to get past Thomson’s tally of five majors.
It is too far to expect him to close on Woods’ 14, but he has a chance to stamp himself as our greatest golfer ever. He may make it and he may not but the beauty is in the observation and few play the game as beautifully as Adam Scott.