ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Adam Scott should be over it by now.
C’mon, he’s got a green jacket!
But the laid-back Aussie just can’t let it go, the way he threw away that British Open at Lytham by bogeying the final four holes.
Two more close calls since then have only made that chip on his shoulder even heavier.
Assuming it doesn’t become too much of a burden, it could be just the prod that Scott needs to finally claim the claret jug on Sunday.
“I’m very motivated,” Scott said after the second round, having posted a bogey-free 67 that pushed him into contention at St. Andrews. “I would love to be sitting here having won the Open, but I’m going to have to work hard for it.”
He’s done plenty of good work over the last three years, finishing in the top five each time at golf’s oldest major championship.
The top spot keeps eluding him, however, and that’s clearly a bone of contention for the 34-year-old from Adelaide.
“I feel like I’ve been really close to lifting this trophy,” Scott said, speaking of the jug as though it was right by his side. “I’d be very disappointed if I never did it in my career when I got so close.”
Scott’s willingness Friday to open up about his lingering disappointment was quite refreshing, and strikingly at odds with the stereotypical athlete who resists showing any signs of weakness or vulnerability.
What made it more surprising was the fact that a mere nine months after that jarring setback at the 2012 British Open, when a coronation suddenly turned to despair, Scott bounced back to earn that career-defining major title he so craved with a victory in the Masters.
Most of us would’ve assumed that was the salve Scott needed to get over Lytham.
“I tried to brush it off, and I did see all the positives,” Scott said, thinking back to that Sunday almost three years ago to the day. “I played so well, and really, it was the first time I’d ever kind of controlled the outcome of a major championship. It was all what I did coming down the stretch.”
The engraver was getting ready to carve Scott’s name into the jug after a birdie at the 14th hole seemingly sealed his victory.
Then, it all fell apart.
Ernie Els, playing several groups ahead and barely even noticed much of the weekend, suddenly found himself tied for the lead after making a birdie on the 72nd hole. Scott followed by driving his tee shot into a cavernous fairway bunker and had to hit out sideways just to get a look at the flag. He struck a brilliant approach to 8 feet, giving him a chance to force a playoff. But the putt slipped by the left side of the cup, surrendering the championship to the Big Easy.
The following spring, Scott would make the clutch putt that eluded him at Lytham, rolling one in from 15 feet to beat Angel Cabrera in the fading light of an Augusta National playoff.
Scott had his major title.
But he can’t forget the one that slipped from his grasp — especially when he led again on the back nine Sunday at Muirfield in 2013, faltering down the stretch with another run of bogeys while Phil Mickelson was pulling off one of the great final rounds in championship history. Scott wound up tied for third, four shots back.
A year ago in the Open, Scott’s hopes were essentially doomed by a second-round 73 at Hoylake. He would close with a 66, leaving him tied for fifth and five shots behind winner Rory McIlroy.
Scott is back in the mix after what appeared for all intents and purposes to be a stress-free round on Friday. He reached the last 15 greens in regulation. A new long putter has helped restore his touch on the greens, most tellingly when he rolled in a 25-foot birdie at No. 9. It sure doesn’t hurt to have Steve Williams back on the bag, their partnership restored last month at the U.S. Open after the most famous caddie in golf opted to cut back his schedule at the end of last year.
“It was the right call for me to make at this point in the year to get him back out and instill a bit of confidence in my game and get back in that flow,” Scott said. “He’s a huge factor in the way I’ve played the last few years. I have to absolutely give him credit for that.”
Scott figures to be chasing Dustin Johnson this weekend, and it will be interesting to see which approach works better.
There’s Johnson, who’s yet to win a major but insists he’s completely over that devastating three-putt that cost him the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay not even four weeks ago.
Then there’s Scott, who has his major title but is still annoyed by the one that got away three years ago.
“I’m playing,” he’ll be the first to say, “with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.”
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberryap.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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