Scott optimistic about ending years of Presidents Cup losses

Sports

International team captain Ernie Els, left and Joaquin Niemann of Chile during a practice round ahead of the President’s Cup Golf tournament in Melbourne, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo / Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — No one at Royal Melbourne has more playing experience in the Presidents Cup than Adam Scott.

Not much of it is positive.

He was a rookie in 2003 and one of the strongest voices arguing for Ernie Els and Tiger Woods to keep playing in gathering darkness in South Africa until the matches were declared a tie. Looking back, that would be a small victory for Scott and the International team. It has experience nothing but losing since then.

Even so, the optimism for the 39-year-old Australian — the oldest player on the youngest International team ever — has never been greater.

“This is a great opportunity for us, it really is,” Scott said Wednesday on the eve of matches that the Americans have thoroughly dominated. “I’ve had a good feeling for the last couple months about the way our team shaped up. I feel a very, very strong energy, which certainly over some of the past Cups we’ve been lacking. It’s not a lot of fun getting beaten all the time.”

Scott knows that all too well.

He already holds the record for most losses in the Presidents Cup with a 14-20-5 record. By the end of the week, he will trail only Phil Mickelson — whose streak of 12 appearances ended this year — for most matches played.

But it has been hard to ignore the enthusiasm of Scott and the rest of the International team, which faces a big task against an American team that has never been stronger on paper going into the matches.

The average world ranking of the U.S. team is 12.3.

Scott has the highest ranking of any of the 12 players on his International team. He’s at No. 18.

Els is the captain and is keeping his strategy and how much he has relied on analytics to the team room. The Big Easy played eight times in the Presidents Cup and was part of the 1998 team at Royal Melbourne that beat the Americans for its only victory.

Scott is playing in his ninth Presidents Cup, which breaks the International team record held by Els and Vijay Singh.

“Between me and Scotty, we’ve played the most Cups on our side,” Els said. “I’ve got a great, young team. Guys are naturally just standing up, guys who are quite comfortable to speak. And I like that. I like the spirit we have this week.”

A large part of it starts with Scott, who has much to gain this week. He is desperate to finally win a Presidents Cup, and he can think of no better place than to hoist the trophy with his young teammates in his home country.

He is in the third of five fourballs matches that kicks off the Presidents Cup on Thursday, playing with Abraham Ancer — one of seven rookies on this team — against Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau.

Scott has implored the Australian crowd not to forget who the home team is this week, even with Tiger Woods as the first playing captain in 25 years. Even during two days of practice, the crowd has been enthusiastic over what many believe will be the last time seeing him Down Under.

Woods beat Greg Norman in singles during the ’98 loss. He beat Aaron Baddeley for the clinching point when the Americans won at Royal Melbourne in 2011. Because the lineups for each session are done one match at a time, captains can choose who they want playing against which team.

Because of Woods’ larger-than-life presence in the game, he typically gets the biggest name from the host country — Norman in 1998, Els in 2003 in South Africa, Mike Weir in Canada in 2007. The International team is so spunky that even some of the rookies, whether it’s Ancer or Cameron Smith of Australia, have said they’d like a shot at him.

The most natural draw would be Woods against Scott. Woods, as U.S. captain, can make that happen.

Scott is more interested in Thursday’s opening session than Sunday singles.

The International team had a one-point lead after the second day in 2005 in Virginia. That was the last time it led after any session in the Presidents Cup. Last time at Liberty National was particularly brutal, with the Americans enjoying a six-point lead going into the weekend, and they nearly clinched it on Saturday.

“A good start — that’s all we’re looking for tomorrow,” Scott said. “Whoever is out there, it’s the most important match of the week for them. Our team doesn’t need to be chasing its tail out here. We don’t need to be mounting a huge comeback.”

Scott has achieved plenty in his two decades in golf, starting with his Masters victory in 2013 that made him the first Australian with a green jacket from Augusta National. He was the first Australian since Norman to reach No. 1 in the world. He has 27 victories worldwide.

Missing is leaving the Presidents Cup on a winning team.

“I think it would probably mean a lot more to me than I’ve ever thought,” Scott said. “The last few years, I’ve put more of myself out there for the team, and so far it hasn’t yielded much of a result. It’s never fun leaving on Sunday with not having won the trophy. This is a real opportunity for us and it will be possibly a team that is remembered after such a long stretch. I’m really keen to kind of take that chance this week.”

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