Steve Scott's Road Back
FORGOTTEN, NOT GONE
Steve Scott hit bottom on Aug. 25, 1998. Two years earlier, a
few days into his sophomore year at Florida, Scott had almost
beaten Tiger Woods in the final of the U.S. Amateur. Now,
though, he had just shot rounds of 72 and 78 and had missed the
cut in the Amateur for the second year in a row, completing a
slide during which he had gone from ABC to MIA, and from the No.
1 amateur ranking to out of the top 50. It was time to hang up
For a month Scott knocked around Gainesville, Fla. He watched
Woods and the other Tour pros on TV and played racquetball with
his fiancee and sometime caddie, Kristi Hommel. He saw a sports
psychologist, caught up with friends and contemplated a career
in broadcasting. "That might have been the lowest I've ever
been," says Scott, who will watch this year's Masters on TV
after making the field two years ago. (He shot 78-79 to miss the
cut.) "It was not fun to play anymore."
It is now. After his long dry spell, Scott, a senior at Florida,
has won three of his last five tournaments, at one point leading
the Gators to three straight team victories. Also, in a
noncollegiate event, the New Year's Invitational at Lakewood
Country Club in St. Petersburg in January, Scott's winning total
of 17-under-par 271 broke by a shot the tournament record set by
his coach, Buddy Alexander. Scott has climbed back to 33rd in
the ranking, but, says Alexander, "I'm not sure I'd trade him
for anybody in the country."
Scott, who finished 14th at last week's Carpet Capital
Collegiate in Dalton, Ga., says he was unprepared for the
attention he received after taking Woods to 38 holes in the
Amateur. Shortly after Tiger turned pro three days later, Scott
assumed the No. 1 ranking, although he hadn't won anything since
junior golf. Critics convinced Scott, who normally hits a draw,
that he needed to change the shape of his shots. He got worse.
Scott went winless as a sophomore, and as a junior, too. Then
last May he mysteriously contracted the yips. He finished 81st at
the NCAAs and, after falling apart with the 78 in the second
qualifying round at the Amateur, decided it would be best to get
away from the game.
Scott came back with a new perspective, if not a new putting
stroke. The epiphany came in November, at a Dave Pelz short-game
school in Boca Raton, Fla., where Scott learned to putt
cross-handed with the claw grip--the fingers of the right hand
hold both the shaft of the putter and the left wrist--made
famous by Bernhard Langer. At the Feb. 13-14 Gator Invitational,
Scott made a 10-footer on the final hole to win his first
collegiate title. Later he learned that Woods, playing in the
Buick Invitational, had also won that day. How about that? At
last Scott had kept up with Tiger.
A Major Problem
The Senior tour's first major of the season, the Tradition, was
full of flakes last week as snow shortened the event from 72
holes to 36. Gary McCord said he got out of bed last Friday and
thought he was at his second home in Vail, Colo., evoking the
famous quip from Jimmy Demaret, who upon waking to see snow at
the 1962 Bing Crosby remarked, "I know I got loaded last night,
but how did I wind up at Squaw Valley?"
Mother Nature ambushed the Cochise Course at Desert
Mountain--about 25 miles north of Phoenix--early on Friday with
a three-inch snowfall that canceled play. The weather was fine
on Saturday, but when another inch of snow fell on Sunday
morning, the Tradition was called, and Graham Marsh, a renowned
globetrotter who says he's also been snowed out at tournaments
in Japan and Switzerland, was the winner. It marked the first
time one of the Senior tour's four majors had been shortened to
36 holes, and that was precisely the problem.
While play in the Senior U.S. Open and the PGA Seniors will spill
over to Monday if needed, the Tradition, which began in '89, and
the Senior Players Championship ('83) are both run by the Senior
tour, which prohibits a round beginning on a Monday. Naturally,
it was sunny at Desert Mountain on Monday, which underscored a
reality: Two of the four Senior majors are more dressed-up
regular events than true championships.
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Scott has seen some rough times since nearly beating Woods in '96.
COLOR PHOTO: RADI NABULSI
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: MARTIN KLIMEK (2)
What do these players have in common?
They're the only Nike tour veterans to make it to No. 1 in the
Now that Augusta National is longer and has rough, will Tiger
Woods's record (18 under par) ever be broken?
--Based on 1,415 responses to our informal survey.
Next question: The players say that course conditions on the Tour
are too tough.
Would you prefer to see pros struggle to save par or make a
barrel of birdies? To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
At the Masters you get an invite to the next year's tournament
if you finish in the top 24. Last year's winner, Mark O'Meara,
had done that in seven of his 14 starts. Here are the nonwinners
in this week's field who have been among the top 24 in at least
half of their Augusta appearances (minimum four starts).
PLAYER STARTS/TOP 24PCT.
Ernie Els 5-4 80%
M. Calcavecchia 12-8 66%
John Huston 9-6 66%
Tom Lehman 6-4 66%
Tom Kite 25-16 64%
Loren Roberts 5-3 60%
Greg Norman 18-9 50%
Corey Pavin 14-7 50%
Steve Elkington 8-4 50%
Jeff Maggert 6-3 50%
Phil Mickelson 6-3 50%
Justin Leonard 4-2 50%
Ryuji Imada, Tampa
Imada, a sophomore at Georgia and a native of Hiroshima, Japan,
shot a one-under-par 71 in the final round (213 total) to win
medalist honors and lead the second-ranked Bulldogs to victory
in the Morris Williams Intercollegiate at Austin (Texas) Country
Randy Haag, San Francisco
Kim Welch, Sacramento
Haag, 40, the CEO of Spark Online, an Internet company, and Kim,
16, a sophomore at St. Francis High, won the men's and women's
divisions, respectively, of the 83rd San Francisco City
tournament at Harding Park. Haag, twice the club champion at
Olympic and the Northern California player of the year in 1993
and '95, defeated Gary Vanier, 48, a stockbroker and six-time
City winner, 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final. Kim beat Lisa Yamane,
a junior at Cal, one up. With the match all square after 35
holes, Kim, the reigning Sacramento city champ, made a 12-foot
putt for par at the 36th, while Yamane missed her four-footer