The PGA Tour bounce-back statistic reflects how well a player recovers from bogeying a hole. Another bounce-back statistic not readily available is perhaps more interesting. This would reflect a player’s ability to recover from a potentially devastating reversal of fortune in a tournament.
Adam Scott suffered such a reversal in the recent British Open, when he bogied the last four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club to lose the championship. He held a four-shot lead with those four holes to play. A series of small but critical mistakes led to his giving up his best chance yet to win his first major championship. At the same time, Ernie Els shot 32 on the back nine, which culminated in his burying a birdie putt of about 15-feet on the final hole.
Scott was playing right behind Els. His quartet of bogeys combined with the birdie that Els made on the last hole gave the South African his fourth major. Golf observers have been watching closely to see how Scott would fare in this week’s PGA Championship at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C.
Scott has done pretty nicely so far. He shot 68 in the opening round, when conditions were benign, and then 75 in Friday’s second round when high winds made the course play much more difficult.
“It’s very tough,” Scott said after his round. “I think I played pretty well. I mean, I could have saved a couple shots maybe. But it’s very easy to let shots slip out on this golf course. So I think, consider 75 kind of a par round of golf out there today. It’s really very tough. I did a lot of good things. I hit a lot of fairways again. And that makes this course a little bit easier.”
Scott said he’s won many fans since his disappointment at Lytham, but that this ensued after a loss. He added that perhaps he could win this weekend and gain support for a reason he would prefer: his first major, that is.
History suggests that it’s never clear how a player will respond from a loss such as the one Scott experienced. The consensus seems to be that Scott will definitely win his first major sometime. Els himself said so in the immediate aftermath at Lytham, and has made the same assertion since, including in conversations with Scott.
There are good and bad stories when it comes to bounce-backs. Nick Price held a two-shot lead with six holes to play in the 1982 Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club but made some mistakes coming in. He tied for second with Peter Oosterhuis, a shot behind Tom Watson. Price won the World Series of Golf the next year, but went another eight years until he won his next PGA Tour event. He went on to win one Open and two PGA Championships.
Then there’s Mike Weir, who was tied for the lead with one round to go in the 1999 PGA Championship. Weir was in the final twosome that day with Tiger Woods, with whom he was tied. Weir shot 80 to drop into a tie for 10th place. Many people felt he would never bounce back.
But Weir shot 64-64 on the weekend three weeks later to win the Air Canada Championship, his first PGA Tour win. He had learned from his experience at the PGA Championship while tied for the lead with Woods. Four years later, of course, Weir went on to win the 2003 Masters in a sudden-death playoff against Len Mattiace.
Mattiace had shot 65 in the last round at that Masters, but bogeyed the 72nd hole. Only Weir could catch him, and he did. Mattiace hardly collapsed, but he did bogey that final hole and then double-bogeyed the first hole of the playoff. He had won twice on the PGA Tour before the Masters. He tore his ACL in both knees in a skiing accident at the end of the season. Mattiace has been fighting hard to regain his form. But he has yet to truly bounce back.
Most recently, there’s Jim Furyk’s collapse, which one could say offers an opportunity to bounce back. Furyk took a one-shot lead over Keegan Bradley to the final hole of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. The 2003 U.S. Open champion and winner of 16 PGA Tour events double-bogeyed the hole. Bradley made a lengthy par putt before Furyk faced a five-footer for par to get into a playoff. Furyk hit a terrible putt and missed. Bradley won.
Earlier this week Furyk said he was having a hard time getting over his last-hole breakdown, and that he’d rather have the week off. But the PGA is a major. Furyk shot 72 in the first round but struggled to a second round 77 and was hovering near the cut line. Will he bounce back completely and win again on the PGA Tour? We’ll see.
That’s the thing when it comes to bouncing back from a breakdown. You never know what will happen. It would obviously be a feel-good, or feel-great, story, were Scott to win the PGA Championship. If he doesn’t, we’ll have to wait until next year and its four majors to see if he really does bounce back from what happened at Lytham last month.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein
Editor’s note: Lorne Rubenstein has revised his retirement plans. He’ll contribute to The Globe’s print section on an occasional basis, and will maintain his blog regularly atReport Typo/Error