BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — The one thing that keeps Adam Scott from getting overly frustrated with his recent play is a green jacket in his closet.
That win at the Masters will make this a memorable year no matter what happens the rest of the way. Scott made it clear Wednesday, however, that he isn’t satisfied with one major championship, and he’s certainly not satisfied with how he has been playing.
He was three shots out of the lead at The Players Championship going into the weekend until a 75-71 finish. He was on the periphery of contention at the Memorial until a 73 on the last day. He started beautifully in the U.S. Open until a bad finish to his rain-delayed first round, and it didn’t get much better the rest of week at Merion.
That’s what made last week in the Bahamas so important.
“I really felt like last week the focus went back on when I was on the range at home, and it was really productive again,” Scott said. “And it felt like it did before winning the Masters. I think, somewhat understandably, you can get lost a little bit — not lost, but you can just float along. I was playing OK, but it just wasn’t quite the same as beforehand. And now there’s a purpose again, for sure.”
Scott highlights the field at Congressional when the AT&T National, a tournament that already has lost host Tiger Woods because of an elbow injury and Justin Rose because he was wiped out from winning the U.S. Open and then playing the following week.
Congressional is as pure a test as the PGA Tour offers, not surprising because it has hosted four majors, including the 2011 U.S. Open that Rory McIlroy won with a record score in soft conditions. Scott won on this course nearly a decade ago, and it’s what brings him back — that and a chance to get his game pointed in the right direction with the British Open a month away.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed being the Masters champion for the past couple of months,” Scott said. “I haven’t been too harsh on myself for my performances in the last three events since the Masters. Like I said, I got home after the U.S. Open and I was disappointed. Because after starting so great Thursday, I really just squandered away into the back of the pack. And that was the first time I’d done that in a major in a long time.
“So when I got back on the range that that, the focus came back, and the purpose came back to my practice.”
This will be his final event before the next major, and it figures to be quite a test.
Woods won a year ago in a wild week that featured extreme heat, a bizarre storm that toppled trees across the golf course and kept fans from attending on Saturday, and a late surge to get past Bo Van Pelt for a two-shot win at 8-under 276.
Only five other tournaments had a higher winning score last year, a list that includes the Masters and U.S. Open.
“Congressional can stand on its own two feet,” Van Pelt said. “If you’d have played here two weeks ago, you probably could have had a U.S. Open if you wanted to. You know that coming in, and guys either like that and want to come play here, or they take this week off.”
Woods is not taking this week off by choice. He hurt his left elbow a month ago, and doctors have advised rest and treatment to allow it to heal before the next two majors. Even so, the world’s No. 1 player didn’t want to miss out on defending his title on a course that has shown to identify some stout players.
“It’s frustrating for me because I want to play, and I know how the golf course is set up right now, too, and I like the setup of it,” Woods said. “The years that it’s set up this way, I’ve done well.”
It’s the kind of test that Jason Day did not want to miss. Day has only one PGA Tour win, though the Australian has been thriving on tough courses in recent years. He finished two shots back at the Masters twice in the last three years, and he was two shots behind Rose at Merion. Day also was runner-up to McIlroy in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, though he was eight shots behind.
“This course … it kind of feels like a U.S. Open again,” Day said. “It’s got some length to it, and the rough is pretty dense out there.”
Asked later if he preferred the harder courses, Day’s eyes lit up and he said, “Tough, yes.”
“Just takes out the riff-raff, I guess,” he said.
It was a reference to games, not names. This is not a place where players can get by without their best stuff.
Scott won the now-defunct Booz Allen Classic the one year it was held at Congressional. Since the AT&T National began in 2007, the list of winners is K.J. Choi, Anthony Kim and Woods the last two times.
Scott said Congressional was the primary reason he put the AT&T on his limited schedule. Now he hopes to see something good come out of the week.
“This is the time of the year where I play, and I need to be ready and play myself into form,” Scott said. “Especially after the U.S. Open, I feel a result is needed, just some kind of result to keep the confidence high and move over to Europe feeling like I’m ready to compete. I want to contend. It’s been since the Masters that I’ve really been in contention. So getting those feelings would be nice again.”