Major Mystery Why has it been so long since an Australian won one of the big ones?

July 04, 2004

Adam Scott, a 23-year-old Australian, occasionally plays golf as
well as anybody on the planet. He cruised to a four-shot victory
at the Deutsche Bank Championship last September, won the Players
Championship in March and last week won by four again, at the
Booz Allen Classic in Potomac, Md. Based on that track record,
you'd expect Scott, who's 13th in the World Ranking, to be primed
for a run at his first major title, in two weeks at the British
Open. But he's not. "I won't have high expectations," Scott said
after the Booz Allen. "I simply want to play two solid rounds and
get into position for the weekend."

Scott is one of the Tour's most mild-mannered players, but this
degree of ambivalence is still striking, and his attitude
provides insight into one of golf's biggest mysteries: Why don't
Australians win more majors?

From the early 1980s to the mid-'90s, there were only about 10
Australians on Tour, and they excelled at the majors. In addition
to many close calls, Greg Norman won the 1986 and '93 British
Opens. Wayne Grady took the '90 PGA, and Steve Elkington won the
'95 PGA and has five other major championship top 10s.

Elkington's PGA, though, was the last major won by a man from
Down Under. In the years since, the Australian presence on Tour
has grown to 19 players, the most of any nation other than the
U.S. And these Aussies are better trained than their
predecessors, thanks in part to the free coaching and facilities
made available to amateurs since 1993 by the Australian Institute
of Sport. But while the Aussies are routinely on the leader board
at regular Tour events--Scott, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby and
Craig Parry have combined for 12 victories since '97, while Aaron
Baddeley and Stephen Leaney have runner-up finishes--they've come
up empty at the majors.

The critics say that Australia's younger players are overcoached
and more interested in making a perfect swing than simply playing
the game. Elkington says that's a bunch of hooey. He believes
that only one of his young countrymen has the talent and the
experience to win the big ones. "I wrote Adam a note after the
Players telling him that was the hardest tournament he would ever
win," says Elkington, who won at Sawgrass in 1991 and '97. "Now I
think Adam is equipped for the majors. I don't know if anybody
else is there yet."

Scott's comments at the Booz Allen might also be interpreted as
managing expectations. Big things were expected after the
Players, but then he missed three out of four cuts, including the
Masters and the U.S. Open. But there is no mistaking his goals.
He works intensely with Butch Harmon; two months ago he hired
Tony Navarro, Norman's former caddie; and he recently had a
refreshing monthlong stay with his parents in Australia.

He may not say it, but Scott is ready for Troon. Time will tell
if that means he can end the Australians' long drought. "Our
contingent is building strength," says Elkington. "It's
ridiculous to think that somebody won't win one soon."

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG (SCOTT) SLAM SHUT Scott's win gives the Aussies 19 Tour titles--but no majors--since '96. THREE COLOR PHOTOS: AL MESSERSCHMIDT/WIREIMAGE.COM COLOR PHOTO: DAVE BOWMAN/NEWPORT NEWS DAILY PRESS/AP (WIE)

Trust Me

A player from Asia is the reigning champ at three of the top four
USGA events for females (Amateur, Junior and Publinks). A win at
the Women's Open will make it a sweep.

Up & Down

[Up]
Spencer Levin
Twenty-year-old rebel follows a 13th at the U.S. Open with a win
at the Cal Amateur.

Congressional Country Club
The Booz Allen drops in for a year, in 2005. The players wish it
would stay awhile.

Laura Davies
Aging Solheim Cup stalwart gets a third top 10 and is looking
forward to Crooked Stick in '05.

[Down]

Michelle Wie
Fourteen-year-old phenom loses Publinks to an older woman: Ya-Ni
Tseng, 15, of Taiwan.

TPC at Avenel
A renovation didn't start soon enough: 27 of the top 30 skipped
this year's event.

Dottie Pepper
Aging Solheim Cup stalwart withdraws because of injuries and is
talking retirement in '04.

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