|Adam Scott and caddie Steve Williams discuss the shot on the 10th hole. (Getty Images)|
DORAL, Fla. -- After more than a decade of flying around the globe, playing an intertwining schedule on two major tours, chasing ranking points and paychecks, Adam Scott discovered a simple truth.
For him, deprivation works better.
Playing in just his sixth official round of the season, the 31-year-old Aussie star with the sweetest swing in the game cruised to five birdies and an eagle to finish with a 6-under 66, claiming a share of the lead after the first round of the Cadillac Championship at Doral Golf Resort and Spa.
Funny thing is, back in the day, to "Cadillac" was to cruise along effortlessly, picking your spots and choosing when to coast and when to hit the gas.
That's exactly what Scott has been doing over the past couple of seasons after giving up his membership on the European Tour last year, and making even more scheduling trims in 2012.
Isolation of a sort has made him hungrier than ever to achieve. He didn’t play at all on the PGA Tour until two weeks ago at Riviera, when he finished T17 despite some rust, and then he got zapped a few days later in the first round of the Accenture Match Play.
The previous three months he'd spent at home in Queensland, kicking up his un-spiked heels for the longest stretch of vacation time in his career. Based on the early returns, the experiment has worked. The only player in the field who has logged fewer rounds this year is Paul Casey -- who dislocated his shoulder on Christmas Eve and could not play until this week.
"If you starve a guy of playing a little bit, he'll be desperate to compete," Scott smiled. "He'll find a way to get in the mix, you know what I mean? And you know, I'm playing good; it's hard not to play every week, I feel like.
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"But just starve me a little bit and I'll find my way into contention."
Scott only has concrete plans to play in the two-day Tavistock Cup March 19-20 in Orlando, an exhibition, before heading north for the Masters, where he briefly held the lead on the back nine on Sunday last season before finishing T2. He might play in Tampa next week, but is waffling.
Last year, Scott played five tournaments before the Masters, plus the Tavistock event. Pretty clearly, he's hoping to paint a Masters masterpiece by going the minimalist route.
"Look, there's no secret, I played a lot of tournaments all around the world for like, 10 years," Scott said. "I mean, that takes its toll. When you're 21 it's pretty easy to fly around the world nonstop and just go play and do everything you want to do, but it's different when you're 31.
"It catches up with you a little bit. So I just do what feels best for me now. I'm out here with the goal to be the best player I can be and get the most out of my game. And you know, it seems to make sense to me to do what I need to do to do that."
After his early exit from the match play, he spent a couple of weeks working on his game in the San Diego area, and he's obviously noticed that while he was cooling his jets, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have been revving their engines. Still, he's been biding his time and biting his tongue.
"I feel like I've had a bit of a break, and I need to pick up kind of where I left off and catch back up to these guys," Scott said. "Rory has definitely picked up where he left off last year.
"I definitely feel like I can get my name in that hat," said Scott, who is ranked 11th in the world and has climbed as high as third. "Hence, again, you've got to be a little bit patient. You've got to do the right things for me and not just go running off playing every week chasing world ranking points or whatever you're playing for."
Ah, the sagacity of age.
There was a time when Scotty would go anywhere, anytime. When he turned pro 12 years ago, when he was barely old enough to shave, he had no status on any tour and had to take berths and exemptions where he could get them.
He vaguely recalls playing 14 weeks in succession early on -- and devouring every morsel of it.
"When you're 19 years old, that's a piece of cake," he said. "You've just turned pro, and you just can't believe you're playing in a professional tournament -- and you're going to get paid for playing well. I was loving it, playing every week and taking every invite. You know, I needed to."
He'd left UNLV after a season to play as a pro, and was so impossibly polite, some wondered whether he'd get eaten alive, including his old coach, Butch Harmon. A dozen years later, the Aussie remains one of the most approachable, personable stars on tour, so that theory went out the window.
After playing in the Presidents Cup last fall in Melbourne, Scott came down with a nasty sore throat and had his tonsils removed in early December. For the next couple of months, he hung out with friends and family, watched his fetching girlfriend, Ana Ivanovic, play tennis on the professional women's circuit.
McIlroy is dating a tennis star, too, Caroline Wozniacki, and last weekend, he climbed to world No. 1, ending Luke Donald's 40-week run at the top. That's not the only connection Scott hopes to have in common with the Irish star.
"Seeing Rory have two great weeks and ascend to No. 1 is inspiring," Scott said. "You know, I know it's more than two great weeks for me, but geez, in a few months, it's possible. Luke's shown it's possible.
"You get that level of consistency and you can become No. 1."
Maybe for Scott, who finished in the top 10 at Doral in 2008 and 2010, pacing is the personal key.
For scheduling purposes, constancy and consistency are none and the same.