““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
It didn't take long for 28-year-old golfer Adam Scott to accumulate all the trappings of sports superstardom. Eight years after turning pro, he commands more than $8 million a year in endorsement fees and has accumulated $23 million in tournament winnings. He has built a grand home on Australia's Gold Coast and, by the end of next year, will jet around in the brand-new Gulfstream G450 he has agreed to buy. But all the accoutrements haven't spoiled the easy-going Aussie, whose Adam Scott Foundation has helped scores of young people in his native Queensland.
Meanwhile, Scott continues to keep his eye on the ball. This year, he met with almost immediate success when he rode a final-round 61 to victory at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters in late January. Only three months later, he hoisted another trophy after winning in a playoff at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas.
Although Scott finished respectably at the year's first three majors-tying for 25th at the Masters, 26th at the U.S. Open and 16th at the British Open-he missed the cut at August's PGA Championship, ending another year's failed quest for a win in one of the world's four major tournaments. He makes no excuses, but a throat infection recurred as the PGA approached, and a broken bone in his right hand prevented him from practicing for eight weeks in mid-season.
Apparently recovered from the ailments that led to what he characterized as a summer of "ordinary" golf, Scott talked with us recently about his life, his game and his plans for the G450.
When did you first take an interest in private jets?
The first time I flew in one. It's a bit of a no-brainer. It saves so much time, but the difference it has made on my golf performance is huge as well. The less stress on the body the better when your body's a tool of the trade.
You now use Marquis Jet cards to fly on a Citation Excel. What is your impression of the Excel?
A lot of us fly on the Excel for the baggage space, with the golf clubs. It allows a few of us to travel together and baggage isn't an issue. The only problem with the Excel is it doesn't get coast to coast in the States.
So for long trips, you still fly commercially?
I fly commercially, on Qantas or British Airways. Once you're on the plane, it's pretty nice, because you're going first class. It's getting on the plane when you're flying two and three times a week that wears on you-things like excess baggage and trying to explain why my clubs weigh 75 pounds.
Why did you pick the G450?
Gulfstream was kind of recommended to me by Greg Norman, who's been a Gulfstream guy since the early '90s, I believe. Ernie Els is a Gulfstream guy, too. And they really didn't have anything bad to say about the aircraft. After the research we did, traveling around to see the different manufacturers, certainly in my mind Gulfstream was the best option. And the 450 has such good range. It will handle the [long-haul] trips I'm going to do. I'll be taking it everywhere.
Have you considered what you want to put inside the airplane?
Yeah, I have to do all the interior fitting by the end of this year. It's overwhelming. I'm going to Savannah [Ga.] to see everything, and I'm not looking forward to it. I mean, they have hundreds of woods to show you, and leathers and trims. There are too many options.
Do you plan on chartering out the airplane?
No. I'm probably going to loan it back to Gulfstream when it fits in, and they can use it as a demo to show clients or do whatever they want with it.
You'll hire your own crew?
Yeah, I'll have my own pilot, and a company out of Australia will manage the airplane. It's in the process of being set up.
What inspired you to establish the Adam Scott Foundation?
Through a couple of golf tournaments, there's some charity money donated through the players and it's up to us to designate which charity we'd like to support. There were a few that I thought would be appropriate to support, so we set up the foundation to get the money to these charities in Australia. And then, after being involved in some of the [charity] events that the PGA tour does and seeing what a good job they've done, I took the initiative to build the foundation and raise some money on our own accord.
You're partnering with a charity called Youngcare this year. What does that involve?
Youngcare started up building a facility for youth with high-care needs. In the past, they've had to spend their days in old-age homes; therefore, they've missed out on a social life, and in a lot of instances family have been unable to visit them because of travel limitations. So Youngcare built some apartments in Brisbane to facilitate these kids, and we've partnered with them to build apartments on the Gold Coast. So the idea is theirs, but it's up to the Adam Scott Foundation to come up with the money for the project.
You're also involved in golf course design with your dad.
I am. Scott Golf Designs has a few projects on the go, one of which I'm involved in at the moment just south of Sydney. It takes a lot of planning approvals and stuff like that, but it doesn't take a lot of my time. You know, there's a lot of stuff that I've got on the go, I guess, but I'm pretty conscious of not letting it take up my time and cut into my actual job, which is playing.
Have you finished building your house on the Gold Coast?
Yeah, but I don't spend any time there. It's just so far away. It's just so hard to go home for a week here and there. The toll that travel takes is too much. I am going to play in the Australian Open and the Australian PGA, in the first two weeks of December.
How do you feel about your game right now?
I've played pretty ordinary. But [recently] I went down to the Titleist facility in Oceanside, Calif., and spent a week working on my swing, with some instruction from [coach] Butch [Harmon]. I just needed to get back out on the range and grind a little bit. I certainly have seen the results.
Did you work on club adjustments as well at the Titleist facility?
Yeah. Titleist has a new driver, and I haven't been using it. It's a lot easier to work on that kind of stuff down there than it is on the tour because they have everything available. So it was just a matter of working through a few combinations of shaft and loft.
Did you reach any conclusions?
Yeah, we just changed the loft of the driver [from 8.5 degrees to 9.5], so I'm going to use the new driver this week.
Weren't you coping with some health issues earlier this year?
Yeah, I've had some strange recurring throat infection. I probably shouldn't have played a couple of tournaments that I did.
Are you still feeling under the weather?
No. I just have to watch that I don't push myself too hard because it seems like when I get a little run down it comes back. I haven't really had extensive tests done, so when I go back to Australia I'll see my doctor and sort it out.
You broke your hand in a car door as well.
Yeah, it's been a wild year. The broken hand really halted my practice. I had the best part of eight weeks with no practice. Even though I played a tournament in there, I couldn't afford to practice because of the swelling.
What single thing should the average weekend golfer do to improve his or her game?
Practice chipping and putting. They can hit all the balls they want, but if they can't chip and putt, their scores are never going to come down. Last week, I went to Park City [Utah] for my coach's 65th birthday party and we played a round of golf. But I didn't have my clubs, so I hired a set of left-handed clubs and played left-handed. I wanted to see what I could shoot left-handed. I couldn't chip, and it ruined my score because I hit the ball good. It was frustrating. So now I tell every amateur player I play with, you just need to practice chipping and putting.
You've yet to win a major championship. Do you consider that as important as many observers do?
Yeah, but right now I don't even think about it. This season's gone. For sure, leading into the summer that was kind of all I thought about, but looking back on it, my preparation was so thrown off, I'm trying to give myself a little bit of a break on this season's performance in the majors. Nothing really kind of fell my way just in the lead-up to them.
What current players do you admire most?
Well, obviously Tiger [Woods], but I think certainly at the moment Padraig Harrington. What people don't see are the years of hard work that he's put in. After getting to know him a little bit and seeing his work ethic, it's not a surprise that that's what happened [winning the British Open and PGA Championship back-to-back].
What is your pet peeve on the golf course?
There are probably a lot of things, but slow play on the tour is pathetic. I don't understand how it takes us five hours to play a round of golf. It's pretty embarrassing, but it happens every week. Some days it's just slow because the course is hard, but there are slow players out there, guys who really just take their time and have a lack of etiquette...not ready to hit when it's their turn, that kind of thing.
How did you meet Greg Norman?
At his tournament in Australia. I think I was 15. I remember he was a little angry that day, and then he made a 14 on one hole. So I really wasn't looking forward to meeting him right then. But he was nice. I think he just wanted to leave the golf course. Now I understand how he feels.
Has he influenced your approach to the game?
Absolutely. Even before meeting him, I tried to copy his style of golf. He was the one everyone looked up to in Australia and he was a big influence on my career, especially during the first few years. He still is, but both Greg and Butch pushed me to play in Europe when I was younger. They felt that would be a better learning ground for me than trying to grind it over here. And they were dead right. My game wasn't good enough to compete here.
What were you thinking when Norman entered the last round of this year's British Open with the lead?
I was pulling for him big time, because it might have been the greatest achievement in golf ever. I didn't doubt for a minute that he could do it. I mean, he was the most experienced guy in that position and in those [windy] conditions his chances were better than if it was perfect weather. He's got a great imagination and when he plays that links golf and runs the ball on the ground and drives it through the wind, he's one of the best at that. You know, he was leading with nine holes to go-tied for the lead. So I finished and waited around and watched until the 17th hole and decided to leave. But certainly I would have liked to have gone to that party if he had won.
NAME: Adam Scott
AIRCRAFT: Currently Cessna Citation Excel, using Marquis Jet card. Gulfstream G450 on order. (Click here for a full report on the G450.)
HOME: Switzerland. Also has home on Australia's Gold Coast.