Adam Scott would swap his new world No.1 golf ranking right now for next month’s US Open title.
Not that Scott doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of Monday’s achievement, as he supplants Tiger Woods atop the mountain of world golf.
It’s sweet fruit indeed after almost 14 years of graft as a tour pro and makes him just the 17th player – and second Australian after Greg Norman – to hold the No.1 spot since the rankings started in 1986.
To 33-year-old Scott, being No.1 is “a nice achievement” and “a feel-good thing that can inflate your ego a little bit”.
But it remains far from his main focus as he targets a second major championship at the US Open at Pinehurst from June 16-19 with a long-term view to his place in golf history.
“I think No.1 is a nice feather in the cap and if I was never world No.1 when I was this close I’d have been disappointed,” said Scott.
“But I’d also much rather win the US Open and not be No.1 at all this year.
“That’s what it comes down to.
“There weren’t rankings back in the day and guys won a lot of majors and that’s how they’re remembered.”
Be sure though that Scott will reflect on all that it’s taken to get to No.1 – and just what a key role his childhood hero and mentor Norman played in getting him there.
Five years ago, in the midst of a deep slump, Scott could have just given the game away, picked up his surfboard and ridden waves into every sunset.
But he turned it all around with some soul-searching, a clean out of his team, sweeping changes in his preparation for big events and also a confidence boost from Norman, who spent 331 weeks of his career as No.1, the last back in January 1998.
Had Norman not stuck his neck out as President’s Cup captain in 2009 and picked the slumping Scott on his team, the resurrection may have never taken place.
After being entrenched in the top 10 and as high as No.3 from early 2005 to mid-2008 Scott began a freefall.
After winning the Byron Nelson Championship in April of 2008, Scott had just one other top-10 finish all year on the US Tour and that was in the next tournament.
In 2009 things really went south.
After a tie for second in Hawaii in January, Scott finished no higher than a tie for 33rd and missed 10 cuts in 19 starts all season, including a run of six missed cuts in a row.
By October, he had bottomed out at No.76 in the world and was wondering if it was all worth it.
But Norman’s show of confidence set the ball rolling, allowing Scott to once again believe in his ability to beat the best.
In December he won the Australian Open and began his climb back.
Despite having multiple tour wins around the world Scott knew he’d need to make changes to add the missing link from his career – good finishes in major championships.
“I just didn’t have the best plan in place,” Scott said.
“I went through the motions and did all the practise, but maybe it wasn’t intense enough, there wasn’t a narrow enough focus on exactly what I had to do.”
To get that focus he dumped world renowned Butch Harmon as coach, let go caddie Tony Navarro from his bag and would also change his management team as he revolutionised his approach.
With new coach Brad Malone, also his brother in law, the pair came up with a system to peak for majors.
Woods’ former caddie Steve Williams came onto the bag and immediately results came.
The 2011 Masters could have easily been his before South African Charl Schwartzel incredibly birdied the final four holes to win by two.
But Scott was gathering momentum and in recent times no player has been close to the Queenslander’s consistency in the majors.
In the past 13 major championships, Scott has missed just one cut (US Open 2011) and has been outside the top-15 just three times.
In 2012 and 2013 he was the best player in relation to par across all four majors.
His 2013 was a monumental year as he became the first Australian to win the Masters before adding a tie for third in the British Open and a tie for fifth at the US PGA Championship.
That consistency is the reason he has taken over Woods’ latest reign at the top and why, given his drive to win more majors, he could stay there a long time yet.
“No one else has played better in the last three years than Scotty, especially in big tournaments,” said countryman and 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.
“He’s a legitimate number one. He’s a way better player than Tiger at this moment right now, purely on recent record.”
Scott’s healthy perspective on his No.1 ranking suggests he may enjoy many more weeks in the top spot before his career is done.
“It’s a nice achievement that I am proud of because it rewards consistent play over a period of time and at the moment it has me in front,” Scott said.
“But it is temporary unless I play very good golf.”