“I don’t wake up and think I’ve won the Masters,” he said, “but when I walk in the closet and I put the green jacket on every morning, I do. I’ve enjoyed that. … That’s been a lot of fun just wearing it around the house.”
It is perfectly understandable and acceptable for a 32-year-old man who finally fulfilled not only his own, but his native Australia’s, long-awaited expectations to enjoy a little extra relish. Scott was “blown away” by the reaction he’s received from all over the world – especially Australia – since his Augusta moment.
But basking is the last thing that Scott intends to do. Starting this morning in the first round of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Scott is back to work on what he still considers unfinished business.
“Hopefully come (Thursday) morning I’ll be able to plant my feet on the ground and keep this going because it could be the start of a great year for me out here on the tour,” Scott said Wednesday in his first news conference since his “life-changing” victory at Augusta.
“Maybe in the history books it is (life-changing) because you’re written into that history book of winning a major and it will never be taken out of there. But I don’t believe so other than that. For me, it’s probably going to be the pinnacle of my career because of also the whole of Australia as first Australian to win the Masters, but it’s also not the end for me. Hopefully it’s the start of me achieving my goals and trying to become the player that I’ve always dreamed of being.”
During his three-week break, Scott specifically avoided the temptation of making the long trip home to Queensland, Australia, to partake in any homecoming celebrations. The three weeks off was already planned, but any side trips might only sidetrack his post-Masters plan.
“I was very tempted to go home,” he admitted. “I wanted to see my mom and my sister and my friends and also share in the celebrations with all the golf fans in Australia. It was an incredible response to winning. The Prime Minister of Australia called me. Like I said, I was overwhelmed.
“It’s cause for celebration but we have a plan in place, and it’s hopefully not going to stop with the Masters at the moment. I want to keep focused while I can and try to make this my biggest year yet, and I think we can rustle up some celebration when I get home at the end of the year.”
Scott’s goals remain even more ambitious than ever. He’s been one of those gifted players predicted to exceed all others on the major stages since he won the Players in 2004 as a bright 23-year-old. That it took nine more years to join the major champion fraternity seemed excruciating at times – especially after runner-up bids at Augusta in 2011 and in last year’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes where he lost a four-shot lead with four to play.
“I think it definitely put the expectations up,” Scott said of becoming the youngest player to win the Players nearly a decade ago. “But at that age and where I was at, it just all happened kind of easily, and you just expect it to keep happening.”
Now that he broke through at Augusta, he hopes it can lead to the kind of career explosion that followed 34-year-old Phil Mickelson’s breakout major win on the same Masters stage in 2004.
“I don’t know how you put a number on how many majors you want to win,” he said. “To win more than five would be a dream career, obviously. There aren’t too many guys lately that have been able to do that. It’s a good goal to have. I should set my goals high like I always have. If I can find the balance of using this as a motivator and take the confidence out of what I was able to do at Augusta, then hopefully the floodgates can open. It happened a little bit for Phil Mickelson – well, a lot for him when he finally won his first major.”
No reason the same can’t happen for Scott, whose major success and failures the past few years have been “balancing on a knife’s edge, really.”
“I felt last year like I could have won three of the majors with pivotal moments going my way or not, and I didn’t win any of them,” he said.
But at Augusta, Scott flourished under the most intense pressure applied by an unrelenting Angel Cabrera.
The victory has him once again being compared to his idol and countryman Greg Norman, whose famous heartbreaks at the Masters only made Scott’s victory that much sweeter for all Australians. Scott has already had a private celebration with Norman in his three-week break, but he doesn’t think owning a green jacket automatically puts him anywhere near the Great White Shark in the all-time conversation.
“Greg was revered around the world,” Scott said. “He was the best in the world. He wasn’t just the best Aussie golfer at the time, he was No. 1 in the world for the better part of 10 years as I grew up. That’s a different level than where I’m at. But you don’t know. If I go on to win more tournaments and hopefully get to No. 1 someday, then maybe. I hope that will be as positive an impact as he had on the game.”
Now he just has to resume that focus, leaving the jacket in the closest as he picks up his clubs instead.
“There is so much elation with winning the Masters that I couldn’t really get focused on golf, and that’s why I kept waking up and thinking I shouldn’t play yet because I felt like I don’t want to go out there and mess around and not be focused and achieving something if I’m going to go out and practice,” he said.
The time for basking is over. Now Scott’s goal shifts from becoming a major winner to a major icon.