By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
HONOLULU — As badly as Adam Scott needs to get away from golf, he was in no rush to leave paradise.
Not long after the Masters champion wrapped up his final round at the Sony Open just 10 minutes away from the shores of Waikiki Beach, he was headed to the Big Island with surf champion Kelly Slater and his crew to take in some surf, sun and maybe even a little golf.
No doubt, Scott is on a wave he wishes could last the rest of his career.
But it’s time to take a break, and he can feel it. Whether he goes home to Australia or to the Bahamas, the switch will be turned off. He won’t return to competition for six weeks at the Honda Classic.
“There’s heaps of work to do, but there’s got to be a break somewhere,” Scott said. “I could keep playing. I feel like I’m playing well. But you can’t continue to perform at the level you want if you play all the time. I’m forcing myself to take a break, and I can see it’s coming. My brain didn’t completely switch on these two weeks.”
The rest of his game appeared to be in order.
A pair of par 5s on two islands kept him from serious contention. At the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, it was a long iron he smothered into a hazard on the 15th hole in the third round that turned a sure birdie into a bogey. At the Sony Open, he had 155 yards for his second shot to the par-5 ninth in the third round and made par. Both killed his momentum.
He still had a pair of top 10s in Hawaii.
The six-week break is the longest he has had away from competition since the start of last year. That worked out just fine. Scott had the moment of a lifetime when he won the Masters for his first major, even more meaningful because it was the first green jacket for an Australian. He won a FedEx Cup playoff event. Finally going home for a celebration, he gave the Aussies more reason to cheer when he won twice, was runner-up and won the World Cup team title with Jason Day.
Try finding an encore for that.
“It might be some of the best golf I’ve ever played over the in 12 months,” Scott said. “To walk away and trust it will be there when I come back … I think I’ve done enough work over the last year or two to leave it for a few weeks.”
The break will last only a few weeks and will include plenty of golf, except that he won’t care. Scott’s friends love to play golf when he’s around, and that’s what he’ll do.
Scott said he will switch back on about three or four weeks before the Honda Classic.
He doesn’t play a lot of tournament golf, which is not to suggest he’s idle. The hard work takes place in the Bahamas. Scott is all about the big picture now. Yes, that means the majors. More than that, it’s all about the process.
One of the most amazing chapters in his career is how he bounced back from a collapse at Royal Lytham & St. Annes — a four-shot lead with four holes to play in the 2012 British Open, only to make four straight bogeys and lose to Ernie Els. Scott might have been the only one who saw that day as a breakthrough. He played the best golf for 68 holes. He knew, finally, he had the game to win a major.
And then he did.
What’s interesting is to hear him say his confidence was just as high toward the end of 2012 (the year he blew a major) as it was at the end of 2013 (the year he became a major champion).
“Lytham was that turning point where the confidence grew from the experience and performance in a major, and I think it’s been pretty much the same ever since,” he said. “It all accumulates a bit. But that was a real spike in confidence in 2012.”
It was watching a replay of the Masters that reminded him of the real source of satisfaction.
Scott first watched highlights about 10 days after the Masters. He mostly saw the 20-foot putt he made on the 18th green, and the 10-footer on the second playoff hole that made him a major champion.
“What I experienced looking back is that elation of achievement is so short-lived,” he said. “But it’s longer if you enjoy the whole process. That moment of sheer joy is very short. It didn’t carry on for days and days. It’s numbed by formalities and all those other things. You’ve got to enjoy getting there as much as what happened. It was only a few hours, and then Hilton Head started, and there’s another tournament. The Masters is in the past and you’re looking forward.
“It’s incredible that a lifelong dream can be achieved, and it’s so short.”
The encore doesn’t start at the Honda Classic or the other two events he plays in the Florida swing, but when he gets back to the Bahamas and switches back on.
“You know when you’re ready to get back into it because you’re willing to put in the hours, and it’s not effort,” he said.
As for the performance? Can he do anything to top the last 12 months, especially that one glorious Sunday in April?
Probably not. And that’s OK with him.
“It will be the biggest of my career,” Scott said. “I don’t know how anything could surpass that as a big moment. But it will be a lot of fun to try. Maybe winning the Slam, all four in a career. Hopefully, it’s not all downhill.”
Right now, it’s as open as the Pacific horizon.