Scott's 14-year title streak under threat as 2015 winds down

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SYDNEY (AP) Adam Scott is without a tournament victory thus far in 2015, putting his 14-year record of winning at least one tournament a year in jeopardy going into this week's Australian Open.

But Scott said Wednesday that his family life - he became a father in February - had nothing to do with it.

''I think it would be a bit rough to blame my daughter for my bad golf, so I won't go there,'' a smiling Scott said of his daughter, Bo. ''I made some equipment changes this year with shafts and fiddled around a little bit with my game, and that's a bit dangerous.''

Scott, a former No. 1, has dropped to 12th in the world rankings. He's won a tournament in every year since 2001, but his last victory came last year in the Colonial tournament.

He led after each of the first two rounds at last week's Australian Masters, but shot a 77 on Saturday to end his chances of winning at Huntingdale in Melbourne.

Scott switched from his soon-to-banned broomstick putter to a traditional one last month. Even before that, he called his putting ''poor.''

''In the end I guess making what is a forced change now of the putter was actually good timing, and it's refreshing to have something new to work on,'' Scott said. ''When you putt average for a season, it definitely has a kind of knock-on effect on the rest of the game.''


RYDER CUP CHANGES?: Darren Clarke's first look at the Australian Golf Club course came during Wednesday's Australian Open pro-am, which was only hours after his arrival on an overnight flight from Dubai.

As is usually the case these days, Clarke was asked more about his captaincy of Europe's Ryder Cup team for 2016 than the upcoming tournament, and he sees plenty of new faces in the continental mix.

''Our qualification has obviously started,'' Clarke said. ''A lot of young guys are playing very well, got a lot of points up early at this stage. At the moment it's looking as if there's going to be quite a few changes ... (but) the older, more-seasoned guys probably will start collecting a few points again starting off from next year.''

Those ''more-seasoned guys'' include familiar names like Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, as well as others with leading points, such as Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thorbjorn Olesen, Lee Slattery, Chris Wood and Lucas Bjerregaard.

''It's going to be interesting, the Americans obviously are going to have a very strong team, as always, but I think the European team is going to be very strong, as well,'' Clarke said.

The 2016 Ryder Cup is scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Europe has won the last three tournaments, including last year at Gleneagles in Scotland.

Clarke says his past Ryder Cup experience will be valuable as captain for the first time.

''I know both sides, both as a player and a vice captain (twice) but there's been a lot of things to do behind the scenes which I didn't know,'' Clarke said.

''As a player or vice-captain, you rock up, go to your room, you have an itinerary, you have all your clothes, everything's laid out for you. But it's all me having to make all these decisions, so it's a little bit different.''


WESTWOOD'S MEMORIES: Jordan Spieth credits last year's Australian Open victory with giving him the confidence for his breakthrough season this year, winning the Masters, U.S. Open, Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.

Lee Westwood has similar memories of how his 1997 Australian Open win at Melbourne's Metropolitan course helped change the course of his career.

Westwood beat Greg Norman in a playoff that year in a field that included Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson (they finished tied for seventh), as well as Darren Clarke.

''It still is one of the biggest wins of my career,'' Westwood said Wednesday before his pro-am round. ''Greg was world No. 1 at the time ... and a hero of mine growing up. So to get into a playoff with him and beat him on the fourth extra hole was obviously a very special week.''

It was only the beginning.

''That finish to 1997 really kicked off a good three years for me,'' he said. ''In 1998, I think I won eight tournaments and 1999 three or four and then 2000 eight more, so it propelled me into some good form ... and 2000, I won the money list. Maybe I could do it this time around.''

Westwood will have a morning tee time Thursday in the same group as Spieth and 2010 champion Geoff Ogilvy. Adam Scott is in the featured afternoon group with countryman John Senden and Nicolas Colsaerts.