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Friday, July 1, 2011

While Tiger's Away...

My early interest in the AT&T National this week was to see if the team of Adam Scott and Steve Williams would make another appearance. I'm pleased to see that they have.

I'm not into the rumor-mongering that says Stevie is testing the waters to leave Tiger. I think several important things have gone into this Tiger-approved pairing though.

For one thing, I think it's pretty clear that Tiger doesn't expect to be back playing this year. As I said in yesterday's post about Tiger's mental game, I think Tiger is keeping his options open in order to help him stay motivated during his rehab. When you don't even know how much you'll be able to do in a workout from day to day, it makes sense to keep those big tournaments "open" as possible goals. And if Tiger did get in shape where he could play, Steve Williams would be on his bag. And the article Bob Harig did just before Congressional for about the pairing certainly confirms that belief.

But if Tiger had realistic expectations of making it back this year, I think Steve would be sitting things out. He certainly doesn't need the money, and he's sat out for a few months before when Tiger rehabbed. The fact that he's not sitting out now, and that Tiger has ok'ed him looping for Adam, indicates to me that Tiger's doctors have told him to focus on getting well for a 2012 return.

Likewise, it's no secret that Steve enjoys caddying, that he and Adam are good friends -- in fact, that article quoted Adam as saying that Steve has "been a bit of a confidant in my career" -- and that Adam is currently without a caddie. It's probably in Tiger's best interest if his caddy stays in practice, and the fact that he's doing it with a player who both Tiger and Steve are friends with makes this a sensible arrangement. And let's face it, a little "cross-training" with a different player can be as valuable for a caddie as it is for any player.

But what thrills me most about this arrangement is that Steve could give Adam a good shot at a major. Whatever you may think about him personally, Steve Williams is an elite caddie who could give a player like Adam that little extra he needs to get over the top. (It wouldn't look bad on Steve's resume either if he could caddie for two very different major winners!)

No doubt many of you will point to the pair's 74-73-miss-the-cut weekend at the U.S. Open and question my thinking here. I'd point to the "can't miss" pairing of Dustin Johnson and Joe Lacava (Fred Couples's former caddie) and simply say it takes some time for any player-caddie pairing to find their legs together. And given that Adam had missed more U.S. Open cuts than he'd made, you could view the Scott/Williams teaming there as a success of sorts.

While one round is not enough to say they've gotten things together, Adam's 4-under 66 on Thursday -- which tied him for the lead with Hunter Haas -- certainly seems to indicate there's some real potential here. It'll be interesting to see how the week pans out.

Adam isn't listed for either the John Deere Classic or the Barclays Scottish Open next week, so I assume the duo plan to head straight for Royal St. Georges to prepare for the Open. If he continues to play well -- and media reports indicate that Adam and Steve present a fairly comfortable and relaxed team when they're together -- Tiger may have given Adam Scott the nicest gift a golfer could give.

On loan, that is.

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