ARDMORE, Pa. — There hasn’t been much golf played because of the wet weather, but US Open week already feels different to Adam Scott. Coming to your next major championship after winning your first major championship tends to have that effect.
Scott no longer has to answer questions about why he hasn’t won one of golf’s biggest titles; beating Angel Cabrera in a playoff at the Masters took care of that. He’s been reaping the spoils ever since — despite a light schedule — and noted between downpours at Merion Golf Club on Monday that the 113th US Open will be an entirely new experience for him.
He likes it already.
“I can’t lie to you, I do feel a lot better coming here, even discussing that kind of thing,” Scott said. “It’s a good feeling to come here to know that I’ve achieved that. I’ve got my first major. My sights are definitely set on trying to win more. But it’s a nice feeling.”
Will his victory at Augusta National translate into less pressure this week, or more? Scott’s eager to find out.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel playing for the first time in a major after having won, to see if there’s less pressure or if I’m going to put more pressure on myself. I don’t really know,” Scott said. “It’s a very exciting time in my career, where hopefully I can make the most of all the things that I’ve been working for and take advantage of the momentum of winning the Masters.”
Arriving early has been mostly fruitless, for Scott or anyone else. Scott showed up Friday, when more than 3 inches of rain fell at Merion. That closed the course Saturday, he played 18 holes Sunday, and Monday was another near-total washout, thanks to more steady rain. Not the ideal preparation, but Scott did make a scouting visit three weeks ago, playing two rounds.
By design, Scott has kept a low profile since winning the Masters. He did very little TV (“I try and entertain people on the golf course, not on talk shows”), and played in just two tournaments: He tied for 19th at the Players Championship, and tied for 13th at the Memorial.
He won’t be able to go quietly about his business this week, and not only because he’s the reigning Masters champion. The US Golf Association, which handles the pairings for the first two rounds, decided to put the players ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 3 together. That means Scott will play with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Scott was also part of the marquee 1-2-3 pairing the first time the USGA did it, for the first two rounds of the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines. He was ranked third then, too, and joined Woods and Phil Mickelson, feeling very much like the third wheel.
“I think anyone would have felt like the third wheel that week. The hype was enormous about that pairing,” said Scott, who shot 73-73 those first two rounds, same score as Mickelson and six shots higher than Woods, who would go on to win. “I think this year obviously there’s a lot of focus on Tiger and Rory. I know what to expect out there, I think.
“I’m probably the third wheel this week, as well. That’s why I’m No. 3 in the world.”
Scott should be fine with that, especially if he plays well and finds himself in contention again. It’s happened at two of the last three majors: He lost a four-shot lead with four holes to play in last year’s British Open, then learned from that and closed like a winner at the Masters, making a birdie on the 72d hole, and another on the second hole of the playoff.
He’s also the only person who can win the Grand Slam this year, golf’s ultimate challenge.
“Every event is different and the challenges here this week are somewhat different than the challenges you’ll face at Augusta,” Scott said. “But the experience of dealing with coming down the stretch and ultimately winning hopefully will hold me in good stead the next time I get that chance.
“And I’m aiming for that to be Sunday here.”
. . .
Because only one player earned a last-minute automatic exemption by being inside the top 60 as of Monday’s world rankings, five alternates from sectional qualifying were added to the field. Mike Weir will be making his 13th appearance in the US Open; he was on the wrong end of an 11-man playoff for seven spots at the qualifier last week in Columbus, Ohio. Other alternates getting in were Ryan Palmer, Ryan Yip, Harold Varner, and Rikard Karlberg. The automatic exemption was awarded to Kyle Stanley, who didn’t play in last week’s PGA Tour event despite being ranked No. 59. Only one player jumped into the top 60 (Cabrera, who was already exempt), so Stanley slipped just one spot, making the field right on the number . . . Weather figures to be a big factor this week. More than 5 inches of rain has fallen since Friday, but tournament organizers remain optimistic. “This is the best-draining golf course I’ve ever seen,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director. That might be true, but more rain is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, and there’s a 70 percent chance of rain for Thursday’s first round.