PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.
Adam Scott again is part of the conversation when it comes to great young players, though that probably won’t last much longer. He turns 30 in two months.
That doesn’t make him old, nor does it make him irrelevant.
If anything, it should make all those kids behind him — and there are more of them every year — take stock of what the former UNLV player has done before turning 30, and realize that great play is measured by more than one year, much less one tournament.
Neither should great play be measured against Tiger Woods, who set the bar unreasonably high.
Scott’s 36-hole sprint in San Antonio on Sunday was his 17th victory worldwide, with seven of those on the PGA Tour (that doesn’t include a playoff win at Riviera that was shortened to 36 holes because of rain).
He has won in every full season as a pro. He has climbed as high as No. 3 in the world and played on four Presidents Cup teams. And while he has not so much as contended in a major — a glaring weakness on his resume — he is the youngest to win The Players Championship.
Most of that was forgotten in the last year when Scott endured the worst slump of his career. He pulled himself out of it on his own, however, winning the Australian Open and Texas Open in the last six months.
“I definitely questioned myself at times last year whether I was a great player or not, and I still feel I am,” Scott said. “It’s hard to maintain that for 20 years. I did a good job of it for a long time. I mean, everyone has fairly short memories in this game. You’ve got to be out there all the time to be talked about.
“Hopefully, I can keep going with this form and they can talk about me as one of the great players in the game.”
Scott still has much to achieve before that, though he is off to a good start.
It’s still not as good as Sergio Garcia, who left his 20s in January and is trying to find his game.
Garcia and Scott have set a standard that young players such as Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Anthony Kim, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and perhaps even Rickie Fowler should try to match.
Garcia has won 19 times around the world and reached No. 2 in the world ranking 14 months ago. He starred on the first of five Ryder Cup teams when he was 19, the same year he made Woods sweat down the stretch in the PGA Championship at Medinah. And while he also lacks confirmation that only a major can bring, Garcia at least has been a runner-up three times and has nine finishes in the top five.
“I feel like there’s no doubt I could have done better,” Garcia said. “But people don’t realize that it is a pretty good career.”
Garcia and Scott don’t get enough credit in small part because they have yet to win a major.
And in large part because of Woods.
Even as Garcia was steadily improving and usually producing, his feats were dwarfed by a player from his own generation. Woods continues to chase the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus and the 82 PGA Tour victories of Sam Snead. Even more out of reach are the records that Woods established before turning 30.
He won 56 times on the PGA Tour (64 titles worldwide), 10 major championships and the career Grand Slam — twice. He was No. 1 in the world for all but 101 weeks from when he turned pro until he celebrated his 30th birthday.
“It doesn’t matter what you do,” Garcia said. “Everybody is going to be compared with Tiger because he’s the best. People look at Tiger, and he makes it look — at times — easy. So everybody thinks it’s easy. I’m not unhappy with what I’ve done throughout these 11 years. It’s just a matter of realizing that you can’t compare with him.”
Even as he tries to work himself out of a funk — he has fallen to No. 30 in the world and last won 20 months ago — Garcia takes pride in keeping himself among the top 10 in the world for most of his career.
“It’s not that easy to keep it going,” he said. “That’s why what Tiger has done is so impressive. Being in the top 10 or the top 15 in the world is a big deal. And it’s definitely getting harder to stay there.”
The player who gets Woods’ attention at the moment is Ishikawa, the 18-year-old phenom who has seven victories in Japan and picked up his last win by shooting a 58. McIlroy created quite the buzz with a 62 in the final rough at tough Quail Hollow, only to miss the cut a week later. Fowler has the talent, though it’s hard to put him in any conversation without a victory.
All three of Kim’s victories have come against strong fields. Not to be overlooked is Johnson, still only 25, with PGA Tour victories in each of his three years on the tour.
There is more young talent than ever before.