Adam Scott is nothing if not meticulous in his game prep, putting a focus on each aspect of his upcoming event that could put the ever-methodical Tiger Woods -- one of Scott's high-powered first-round playing partners in this week’s U.S. Open -- to shame.
Scott’s careful plotting, which allowed him to rebound from a disastrous collapse at last year’s British Open and into a green jacket at Augusta in April, could prove to be the difference between winning his second major and Tiger capturing his 15th.
"It's just about trying to soak in as much as you can. I find that that's easier to do out of the tournament week than during the tournament week [because] there's so many distractions out on the course during a practice round that I don't think you're absorbing everything the course is giving to you," Scott told reporters prior to the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago.
"So getting rounds in beforehand I think is key, especially for Merion," Scott said. Demonstrating this, he used his several practice sessions before and after the Memorial to familiarize himself with the track so that by Thursday he could make his way around without a yardage book.
That scheme, Scott said before unrelenting rains washed out much of Monday’s planned practice sessions, provided him with "a good level of understanding" of the Ardmore, Pa., track.
Not even Woods, known for his careful attention to every detail -- but who played the course for the first time on May 28 -- could boast of such deliberate planning.
"I won’t go back, no," Woods said at the Memorial about whether he would return to Merion prior to Open week after playing the course the day before when it was "raining sideways" (conditions not unlike those that put a damper on Monday’s practice).
Almost four inches of rain drenched Merion on Friday and washed out practice on Saturday. With more downpours closing the course for a time on Monday, Scott -- who had penciled in seven pre-tourney rounds -- seemed wiser for getting some golf under his belt prior to this week.
"I'm lucky I came up about three weeks ago and played a couple of rounds, so I have seen the course a fair bit. And I've got a fairly good understanding," Scott told the media on Monday. "But I'm a big believer, especially for here, that you have to understand the course very well. You'd like to feel like you're a local going out there ... I think for me the frustrating part at the moment is I'm not getting to hit enough shots off those tees before we start Thursday."
Scott, as part of a pre-major blueprint he adopted two years ago, has played in only two tourneys (T19 at The Players Championship and T13 at the Memorial) since defeating Angel Cabrera in a playoff at Augusta.
Scott said it was due to his "lack of success and 10 years of playing badly," when asked about why he imposed a limited schedule on himself after experiencing a "really high" frustration level in 2010, a one-win season when he missed four cuts.
"I'm a learner, but not a fast one, obviously ... I'd had enough, essentially, of not playing well enough in the big events when I felt I could," Scott said. "So I had to do something different. You have to after a while if it's not working. If it is broke, you've got to fix it."
The first Australian to win a Masters will test his theories starting Thursday and Friday as part of the event’s high-profile threesome. By now, the 32-year-old who has Woods’ ex-caddie Steve Williams on the bag, has grown used to the spotlight -- having played with Tiger and Phil Mickelson to open up the 2008 U.S. Open.
Then, as now, Scott was No. 3 in the world rankings.
"I think anyone would have felt like the third wheel that week ... the hype was enormous around that pairing," Scott said about the Torrey Pines grouping.
"Obviously with Tiger and Phil, it was so much to talk about with it being Phil's hometown and Tiger dominating at Torrey for years. And it was a great pairing," he said. "It was an experience that I'll never forget. I've never seen that many people on a Thursday morning on the first tee."
Come Thursday, Scott will approach his outing as the reigning Masters champ, but facing Woods and second-ranked Rory McIlroy may feel like deja vu all over again for the winner of nine official PGA Tour contests.
"I think this year obviously there's a lot of focus on Tiger and Rory," Scott said about Nos. 1 and 2.
Woods, a four-time tour winner this season, is trying to capture his 15th major and first since that 2008 U.S. Open while McIlroy is struggling to regain a game that netted him a major in each of the last two years.
"I don't know that I'm probably also the third wheel this week, as well," Scott said. "That's why I'm No. 3 in the world; otherwise I wouldn't be the third wheel, I guess."
Should Scott triumph this week, he would breathe rarefied air, joining Woods (2002), Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers in 60 years to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same season according to the AP’s Doug Ferguson.
As for what the atmosphere may be like with Woods and his former bagman -- who, before Sergio Garcia got in on the act, hurled a racial slur of his own at his ex-boss -- in the same threesome, Scott acknowledged that there could be sparks.
"Absolutely [there will be] some energy and electricity," said Scott. "Playing with [Woods] at any time, there always is. And given the hype around this grouping and being a major, it's going to be an intense couple of days."
It’s an intensity that Scott, who said his four to five hours of daily practice was "planned and purposeful," hopes will continue through the final round.
"That's a pairing you'd hope for on Sunday, also, because if you don't enjoy that kind of stuff it's going to be tough for you to have success out here," he said.
"At some point, if you're playing well and winning a tournament, you're going to have to try and beat [Woods]. And that's what you want to be out here for," Scott averred. "That's why you spend the hours and test yourself. And I'm looking forward to that Thursday and Friday."