Gracious in defeat yet humble in victory: Adam Scott and Jason Day are the epitome of sporting gentlemen
Pair of amiable golfers, who have shown poise on the international stage when they have lost or won, shatter assumptions of brash Aussie athletes
He is a pleasant man, an extremely pleasant man, who is an even better golfer. Australian Adam Scott has won 13 times on the PGA tour, including the 2013 Masters, over the last 12 years. Two of those wins came within the last month when he won back to back at the Honda Classic and the WGC Cadillac Championship.
Coming into this week’s Masters, the former champ with the matinee idol looks is in sizzling form and would have to be considered a strong favourite. Yeah, except for the simple fact that he is not even the hottest player in his own country. And, horror of horrors, he may not even be the most amiable sportsman from Down Under.
Fellow Queenslander Jason Day has won the last two tournaments on the PGA Tour and is every bit as likeable and accommodating as Scott.
Considering his background and the challenges Day had to overcome to get where he is today, he might actually be a more endearing figure than Scott.
Day is the number one ranked golfer in the world with a startling six wins in his last 13 starts, including a major championship record score of 20-under par at the 2015 PGA championship. He is hotter than the sunny side of Mercury coming into Augusta and it seems like nothing short of a Masters victory will suffice.
They are a disorienting duo Scott and Day and for far more reasons than their sublime golf skills as both systematically debunk the notion that the terms amiable and Australian sportsman are mutually exclusive.
Theirs is a broad and brash country where understatement goes to die. One of the truly great sporting nations, a number of legendary Australian sportsmen, in particular their vaunted cricketers, have taken great pride in not only winning, but letting their opponent know they lost.
And never mind that Scott now lives in Switzerland and Day in Ohio, they don’t have to be in residence to be proud Aussies. Their sporting greatness is not just predicated by their indomitable will, it’s also largely because they grew up in a sports mad country where participating even in a seemingly elitist sport like golf is accessible to one and all.
It was Scott who actually began to redefine the perception of the dignified Australian abroad, but it wasn’t in victory, it was in defeat. With a four-stroke lead and four holes to play at the 2012 Open Championship and his first major title in clear sight, Scott melted down and lost to Ernie Els.
There was no petulance on his part, no public disgust. Just a solemn and stoic vow to learn and be better, which enraged large parts of his native country who wanted to see fire in his belly and rage at his failure.
Nine months later, he became the first Australian to join golf’s most exclusive club when he won the Masters. No one could blame him if he smirked and asked, so how you like me now dingos?
But he didn’t, he was classy in victory and openly euphoric about securing a landmark victory for his sports mad country.
Day’s story has become all too familiar after his PGA victory but is remarkable nonetheless and worthy of repeating before Disney makes the inevitable movie of his life.
His was an impoverished tale and he started playing the game with golf clubs his father cobbled together from a local trash heap and his neighbour’s rejects.
He had a natural aptitude for golf, but when he was 12 his father died suddenly and he became a truculent and troubled youth who took to fighting and boozing. His Filipino mother had to take out a second mortgage to send him away to a boarding school where he would meet a mentor and father figure in Colin Swatton.
Sixteen years later Swatton was caddying for Day when he became the number one player in the world as well as an unfailingly decent and multi-ethnic role model who has become one of professional sports greatest ambassadors. Not even Hollywood could make this stuff up.
This coming August both Day and Scott will head down to Rio to represent their country at the Summer Olympics as golf returns to the Games for the first time since 1904. Some professionals, including Scott, initially expressed reservations about competing. But according to Australian Olympic coach Ian Baker Finch, Scott is now totally on board along with Day. They will clearly be medal favourites as they do their national duty for the green and gold.
But as much as they may owe their native country, the debt is clearly mutual.