DORAL, Fla. (AP) — The year isn’t all that’s new for Adam Scott.
He makes his 2015 debut at the Cadillac Championship with a new caddie he hired at the end of last year. He has a new daughter born last month. And what grabbed even more attention was the new putter he plans to use at Doral.
Scott had enough time off during the final months of his wife’s pregnancy that he began tinkering with a conventional putter, which he last used in competition at the Sony Open just over four years ago. He switched to a long putter, and since then has won the Masters and reached No. 1 in the world. A new rule on anchoring that takes effect in 2016 means a change was going to be inevitable.
“Thinking a little more objectively about it at the back end of last year, I thought because I do have to make an adjustment by the end of this year, if I’m going to spend some time doing it I should try and start now and maybe find the best solution,” Scott said. “I’ve putted lots of different ways at home, and probably going to putt with a shorter putter this week. It’s been feeling good. It’s not that big a deal. I did it for a long time that way.”
Scott has gone nearly three months since he last competed and was runner-up at the Australian PGA Championship. He is keeping expectations at a minimum at a World Golf Championship that has brought together all the top 50 in the world ranking.
It’s the first time everyone in the top 50 has been together since the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
That doesn’t include Tiger Woods, who is not eligible for a WGC event for only the second time in his career. Woods has fallen to No. 75 after missing most of last year with back issues and playing only 47 holes in two events this year before saying he would take time off to sort out his game.
As much as Scott has been away from the game, he is not completely out of the loop. He is aware of Woods’ struggles, especially with his chipping — “It’s in the papers even at home in Australia,” he said — and with some of the recent winners. He watched Jason Day win at Torrey Pines and Brandt Snedeker win at Pebble Beach before heading to his home in The Bahamas to start preparing for the season.
“Certainly the last few weeks at home, seeing a bit of the guys play, I’ve got that kind of itchy feeling to play,” Scott said. “But I was home for good reason, and everything is going well, so a good time to kick it off here.”
Rory McIlroy was home last week, too, at least on the weekend.
Already a winner this year in Dubai, and a runner-up in Abu Dhabi, the world’s No. 1 player made his American debut in the Honda Classic last week and bogeyed three of his last four holes to miss the cut with rounds of 73-74.
With the Masters looming, it was not a great start for McIlroy. Considering he has either won or finished second in eight of his last 13 starts worldwide, it was no time to panic, either. McIlroy worked at home in West Palm Beach when the rain allowed, tightened up his swing and feels ready to go.
He teed off Wednesday before the sun was up and worked his way around the Blue Monster in relative peace, an odd scene for the best player in golf. Only two photographers, the occasional TV camera and three fans with memorabilia in bags for him to sign (he didn’t) followed him around most of the day.
If there was ever a time to miss a cut, the Honda Classic would be a good one. It rained so hard that the tournament didn’t end until Monday. McIlroy’s biggest problem was controlling his ball in the wind, and luckily for him, it still was blowing when the rain stopped for his practice sessions.
“I just practiced and played a little bit, and at least I know going into this week where my game is,” McIlroy said. “So even if things maybe don’t go my way at some point during the round, I’ll know how to manage it a little bit better. Excited to get back at it this and obviously try to put in a better performance than last week.”
McIlroy plans to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and that might do it before he arrives at the Masters to try to missing link to a career Grand Slam. Scott might be busier. This is the start of at least three in a row — maybe four in a row depending on how he feels — before Augusta.
The defending champion is Patrick Reed, who declared last year that he felt like he was among the top five in the world. He’s at No. 15, but at least making progress.
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