As Adam Scott stood there at the side of the 18th green, after signing for a 66 which was watched by his "friend" Ana Ivanovic, the tennis player recently voted "most beautiful sportswoman in the world", it was too tempting not to ask the young multi-millionaire the obligatory "where did it all go wrong?" question. Fortunately, Scott recognised the relevance, if not the irony, of the query.
In just over 12 months, the 28-year-old has made the nose-pinching drop from third in the world to 44th. Scott has gone from being the heir apparent at the big events to the barely evident at the big events. Australians are not used to staying on the back foot for long – or so they like to say in Cardiff – but for Scott the rapid reversal of form has been as protracted as it has been trying.
"I have had my moments when I've felt down," admitted Scott, who has missed seven of his last nine cuts in America. "I haven't played well since finishing sixth in Qatar in January. I've tried to stay positive and really believed I was working on the right stuff. Finally, just before the US Open last month, I got the swing in the right position. It's been frustrating but I am convinced I'm going to come out of this a better player."
During his slump, attention has inevitably focused on Scott's private life. As if a freak knee injury while surfing last December was not painful enough, a five-year relationship had also come to an end and after that he began to appear in the celebrity columns, first when being pictured with the actress Kate Hudson and now with the Serbian starlet. Scott was pictured at Wimbledon two weeks ago watching Ivanovic, the former world No 1, from the family box and as she has now returned the compliment here, there is plainly some substance in the gossip. Scott would neither confirm nor deny the love interest – "we are both private people" – but did acknowledge the intrigue.
"Everyone knows what has gone in my life in the past year but I'm not saying that had a direct impact on me playing poorly at the start of the year," said Scott. "But it is nice to be in a good frame of mind in all areas of life. She is a top sports star, too, and so knows what I'm going through. I am a tennis fan so I probably enjoy watching her more than she enjoys being here."
Ivanovic did, however, express her pleasure to be beside the loch and five birdies from her "friend" would doubtless have helped the 21-year-old's mood.
In fact, it was a good day for Australians on this veritable pudding of a track. The leader is Richard Green, one ahead of a group on six-under including the American-based Scot Martin Laird, the Irishman Paul McGinley and the Englishman Graeme Storm. Green is another who has performed contrary to his national stereotype, having been in contention so many times and having prevailed just twice on Tour with seven second-place finishes.
"I haven't handled the pressure quite as well as I would like to," admitted the 38-year-old. "There's a lot of money out there every week and there is a danger you can get up there and just be content with earning a lot. Depends what you want out of the game. I want to win tournaments."
Here Green has the perfect chance, although with the calibre of name a little further down the leaderboard his nerve will likely have to don a Baggy Green to pull through. On three-under is Retief Goosen, as well as Rory McIlroy. The great hope of Europe partnered Ian Poulter for the first time in his short career yesterday and the latter was inevitably impressed. "What a talent," said Poulter, who plainly has joined the ever-swelling consensus which believes the 20-year-old has a live chance at next week's Open in Turnberry.
However, he was not so impressed with McIlroy's trousers, claiming victory in their sartorial showdown. After exchanging messages on Twitter on Wednesday, the duo challenged each other to wear Scottish plaid. Cue a huge gallery. They do like a "Clash of the Tartans" in these parts.
The Official World Golf Ranking position of the current leader, Richard Green.Reuse content