Courage betrays Scott during collapse, but not after

It still was dark outside in Las Vegas when Adam Scott teed it up at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in northwest England on Sunday, so Dwaine Knight turned on the light in the parlor where he and his wife, Debbie, watch golf on TV. Had the windows been open, the Knights probably could have heard the sprinklers oscillating at Spanish Trail Country Club and somebody making donuts.

They had gotten up in the red numbers of morning to see if Scott could wrap it up, protect his four-shot lead at the Open Championship, win his first major title. He was on track to become the first of Knight’s former UNLV golfers to win one of the big ones. Had been on track since shooting 64 over there on a windless Thursday.

After 14 holes, Scott still had a four-shot lead. One of the announcers said he had one hand on the claret jug. One of the other announcers said it only seemed to be a matter of time, now, for 32-year-old Adam Scott of Australia.

Greens and fairways, they said. Greens and fairways.

And then it wasn’t greens and fairways because this was a major championship, arguably the most prestigious major of them all, with all respect to the Hooties down at Augusta National. And the wind finally had started to blow. And when the wind blows at the Open Championship and one has a four-shot lead with four to play, sometimes it’s not all greens and fairways.

Dwaine Knight knew this.

“The majors test every facet of your game,” he said.

“And your courage.”

Adam Scott’s courage was tested and the carving on the claret jug will show that he failed, that when his par putt on 18 slid an inch wide that gave Ernie Els the win – not that Els didn’t play great down the stretch – it assured Scott of his rightful place in golf history for the wrong reason.

Yes, it was a collapse, and, yes, you understood why the announcers would bring up Jean Van de Velde and Carnoustie while it was happening. But even as it was happening, and long afterward, Scott kept his chin up, kept it together, kept being the classiest of acts.

And, said Knight, that takes courage, too.

“You know he’s crushed, but he is such a gentleman to be able to smile,” Knight said. “He’s really a big credit to the game. But on the other side, Ernie Els is a quality guy, too. It just speaks to the game.”

Knight only had Scott for a year and a half before he turned pro in 2000, which didn’t surprise Knight in the least, because there were some good amateurs coming up and a college education isn’t as valued in Australia as it is here.

Even if you can’t hit a 5-iron, you can learn a trade down there, and make lots of money. So Knight doesn’t have the same relationship with Scott as he does with some of the stalwarts who were with him for four years, though he does wish him well via email.

When the coach went through his recent bout with skin cancer, he received an unsolicited email from Scott, wishing him well. And so the Knights got up early to watch golf on TV Sunday, not that they wouldn’t have gotten up anyway, because this is what golf coaches – and their wives – do.

With one of her husband’s former players so close to making the right kind of golf history, I’ll bet Debbie Knight, who is from the other coast of England, was shouting at the TV in the parlor like she does at her laptop when the Rebels are getting up and down a long way from home.

After a couple of bogeys at the start that didn’t seem to matter, because the wind was blowing and everybody else was making bogeys, too, Scott seemed to find his groove. Fairways and greens, fairways and green. Lots of pars.

That would be enough, it seemed, until it wasn’t, until Els made that birdie on 18 and Scott had his courage tested with that putt on the same windswept green.

And then he mouthed the word “Wow,” either because that putt didn’t fall or because he had just given away the Open Championship. It was hard to tell.

Twenty minutes later I was on the phone, asking Dwaine Knight when he might send Adam Scott another email, and he said he already had.    

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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