How Adam Scott got his groove back at PGA Championship

ST. LOUIS — It hasn’t looked right for a while now: Adam Scott struggling.

The 38-year-old Aussie with the magazine-model looks and buttery swing has glided through his golfing life so gracefully that any misstep looks completely out of place.

Scott struggling on the golf course has the look of a supermodel with sweat stains under her armpits. Supermodels don’t sweat. It just looks out of place.

So when Scott, whose world ranking has plummeted to 76th, was forced to grind his way through the 36-hole sectional qualifying stage to get himself into the U.S. Open in June, it didn’t look right.

Scott currently is ranked 119th in the FedExCup points race and in jeopardy of failing to qualify for the PGA Tour’s annual playoffs for the first time in his career, which has produced a Masters victory and a No. 1 world ranking.

Only the top 125 in the rankings get into the first playoff event, the Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club later this month.

After the second round at Bellerive, in which Scott posted a clean 5-under 65 to stand five shots out of the early lead held by Gary Woodland at 10-under before play was suspended Friday, he had the look and sound of a player who was on his way back.

When asked what the low point was during his slump, Scott politely responded: “I don’t really know that I was as low as you might be making it out to be; I’m sorry if that’s not the story.

“The difference between the level I’ve been playing and the top level is very fine,’’ he said. “After a little while it’s just that little bit of confidence that you lack. It’s very, very hard for anyone to give you that other than yourself.

“People around you can definitely support you in the right way, but you also have to find it yourself. That self-belief has to come out. Certainly, the last six or eight weeks have been a real positive for me. I think my results looked a lot worse than what it’s felt like. I feel like I’ve played some good golf consistently.’’

Scott recalled a stretch in 2009 when his struggles completely confounded him, and insisted this year’s slump wasn’t nearly as dire.

“I played a really poor six months of golf in 2009 and I can tell you at that point I felt like I had no idea how to play golf and wasn’t sure how to get it on the fairway,’’ he said. “I was hacking it. I was really lost on the golf course. And the last 12 months to 18 months or however long I’ve not played to expectation I don’t feel like that.’’

Scott said he feels like he’s been “doing all the right stuff, but I just haven’t been doing it on the golf course.’’

“There’s no excuse,’’ he said. “It’s one or two extra putts from 10 feet for par or birdie. This just changes the momentum of your round so much when that one goes in or not. I feel like I’ve been playing some good golf since The Players Championship, but have not gotten anything out of my scores. There’s been lots of fair results, just nothing exceptional.’’

Exceptional is what we’ve come to expect from Scott, because of his beautiful swing and even temperament and the fact he has stood atop the mountain as a major championship winner and No. 1 player in the world.

On a much smaller scale of expectation to the one that Tiger Woods faces on a daily basis, that raised bar has made Scott’s pedestrian results look even worse.

Golfers, like many athletes, always are in search of signs — little indicators that give them positive reinforcement. Scott said he got a bit of that on Thursday morning before teeing off for his first round at Bellerive.

“Warming up on the range I felt like the young Adam Scott swinging the golf club with a bit of ease and a bit of grace, flow and rhythm that I remember,’’ he said. “It’s probably the best it’s felt this year [Thursday] morning on the range. That was just enough to let me play more freely. There were better signs there. That carried over to [Friday]. Hopefully again tomorrow and it just keeps getting better.’’

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