For Adam Scott, the magic number is 60. He needs to be at that mark or better in the Official World Golf Ranking to get into the U.S. Open and extend his long streak of consecutive major appearances. Also, he would love to be in this year’s Open because of where it will be. He has a magic number there, too.
Shinnecock Hills is magical in itself as far as Scott is concerned. He went out of his way to play there during a vacation five years ago, when he was the reigning Masters champion. He wound up becoming the first golfer to shoot 63 from the club’s back tees.
So, yes, he definitely wants to be in the field June 13. He would want to be in it no matter where the tournament would have been scheduled, having played in every U.S. Open since 2002 at Bethpage Black. He has been in every major championship since the 2001 British Open, a string of 67 in a row that currently ranks second to Sergio Garcia’s 75.
“Yeah, it’s a nice streak. I’m pretty confident I can play my way into the U.S. Open,” Scott, 37, said last week at The Players as he was in the process of moving up from 71st to 65th in the ranking. The top 60 as of May 21 will get into the Open without having to go through the qualifying process. “It would be a shame not to play, for a number of reasons.”
A major reason is that he would hate to be somewhere else while the U.S. Open was in Southampton. “I love Shinnecock,” he said, “and I’ve played it a couple of times, just because I love it.”
His feeling for the site was undiminished by the fact that he shot 10 over through two rounds in 2004 and missed the cut. His memory of the course will forever be linked to the fall of 2013.
“I was actually doing a long weekend with my wife and some friends. Well, she wasn’t my wife then. We were staying at a friend’s house. We went to the Walker Cup,” he said, referring to the biennial international amateur team matches that were being held at the adjoining National Golf Links of America.
The most unforgettable part of the East End visit, though, was the four-hour span he spent at Shinnecock Hills. He started strong and word quickly got around the grounds that he had a chance to eclipse the 64 once shot by Raymond Floyd, the 1986 U.S. Open winner at Shinnecock who became a member in 2000.
Members came out to watch Scott finish, and got to see him make a birdie on his last hole. No, he did not jump and sprint up the fairway to follow the ball’s path as Corey Pavin did when he clinched the 1995 Open. “I didn’t hit a 4-wood, either,” he said. In fact, he did not even finish on No. 18 because he started his round on the back nine. Scott’s clinching birdie 3 occurred on No. 9.
“It was a hell of a round,” he said last week. “And I was playing with a member who was the only guy to shoot 63 as a member, too. So, that was a neat deal.”
The member was Jimmy Dunne III, who three years earlier had been the first to shoot 63 from the members’ tees. “He is awesome!” Dunne said in an email.
In any case, it was quite a day all the way around. “They were nice. They gave me a big scorecard, done up and framed, which I have at home,” Scott said.
The following year, Kevin Stadler shot a 62 from the back tees. Stadler also has another prominent and unlucky place in Shinnecock Hills lore. During the 2004 U.S. Open, his putt rolled past the hole and completely off the dried-out seventh green on Sunday, prompting officials to take the drastic step of watering the green during play. He has been hindered by a hand injury and is not entered in this year’s Open.
Scott’s participation still is up in the air. He could have used a few 63s on tour this year. Those would have prevented him from dropping so far from No. 31, his spot at the end of last season.
“As we all know, when things aren’t going well on the greens or anywhere else in the game, you can overthink things and I think I got to that point,” he said this week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, his last shot at cracking the top 60.
After Friday’s round at the Byron Nelson, Scott was 10-under and tied for fifth on the leaderboard.
A return to a long putter, albeit without the now-banned option of anchoring it to his chest, has helped him. His tie for 11th at The Players was his best finish this year. If that turns out to have been too little, too late, he still can get into the Open through a 36-hole sectional qualifier. But he is not sure he wants to endure that. “At some point,” he said, “you can’t whip a dead horse.”
As draining as the tour can be and as much as players like to get away from golf on their weeks off, Scott is one of many players who have been drawn to Shinnecock, just for the fun of it.
“Aesthetically, it’s beautiful out there,” he said. “It might be a little more severe than some of the stuff we have in Australia but it’s not completely dissimilar to the sand belt golf we have. It just has a good look. I think it asks you to play lots of different shots, which is nice.”
It would be nicer if he could know for sure he is playing there next month.