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June 11, 2013

Adam Scott favorite at US Open

    ARDMORE, Pa. — Adam Scott can understand why so many people thought he would have a hard time getting over his epic collapse in the British Open.

    They didn't understand his master plan of trying to get better instead of just trying to get better results.

    Ernie Els walked away from Royal Lytham & St. Annes with a silver claret jug. Scott walked away believing he finally was capable of winning a major, and it wasn't just a pep talk to soothe the shock over losing a four-shot lead with four holes to play.

    "I think if I sat there and watched someone else do what I did, it would have been devastating," Scott said Monday. "It's maybe more apparent to me now that you were all surprised that I wasn't just shattered. But honestly, that's not how I felt."

    In a decision that reshaped his career, Scott decided two years ago to play a limited schedule and practice smarter so that he would be ready for the biggest events. That Sunday afternoon at the British Open, despite the ugly finish, showed him he was on the right track. He promised that day the next time — and he was certain there would be a next time — he would finish the job.

    Scott's story had a happy ending.

    At his hideaway in the Bahamas, the Australian starts each day by slipping on the green jacket he won at Augusta National two months ago, when he made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and then another birdie in the rain on the second playoff hole to win the Masters.

    Except that Scott doesn't see this as the end.

    He is among the favorites when the U.S. Open begins Thursday at Merion, a course that was soaked by more rain Monday. Scott will be part of the feature group the opening two rounds, playing alongside Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy — Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world ranking.

    Scott has been part of this routine before.

    The first time the USGA put together the top three players in the world was at Torrey Pines in 2008 — Woods and San Diego native Mickelson at 1 and 2, and Scott feeling very much out of place.

    "I think anyone would have felt like the third wheel that week," Scott said. "Remembering back to Torrey Pines, the hype was enormous around that pairing. There was so much talk about it being Phil's hometown and Tiger dominating Torrey for years. It was an experience I'll never forget. I've never seen that many people on a Thursday morning on the first tee. It was a great atmosphere."

    And now?

    "I'm probably also the third wheel this week, as well," Scott said with a laugh.

    Maybe not.

    Woods still drives the show in golf, already a four-time winner on tour this year as he tries to end his five-year drought in the majors. McIlroy, a major champion each of the last two years, is in one of his slumps and has yet to win this year.

    Scott, meanwhile, is trying to join some elite company. Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan are the only players in the last 60 years to have won the Masters and U.S. Open in the same season.

    And while every Masters champion has that opportunity, Scott is good enough to make the quest realistic.

    "I can't lie to you — I do feel a lot better coming here, even discussing that kind of thing," Scott said. "It's a good feeling to come here to know that I've achieved that. I've got my first major. And my sights are definitely set on trying to win more."

    And the course at the moment is sharing the stage with Mother Nature.

    Merion received more than 3 inches of rain on Friday, which left it unplayable Saturday. Even as players were getting started Monday morning, more sheets of rain began to fall. Some of the bunkers were flooded, and the course was closed until 11 a.m.

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