PARAMUS, N.J. – Adam Scott's exterior belies the fire that resides within.
On the outside is straight-up cool that should be gliding down a runway, attire that is always in style and immaculate, and an easy-going manner that stacks up with his politeness and approachability. It's an appearance that has, at times, left him vulnerable to critics who charge he's too nice and lacks the killer instinct to finish foes.
Inside, however, is a smoldering desire to continue to achieve in a craft that has given him riches beyond his earliest dreams, a jet-set life with retreats in the Bahamas and the Alps of Switzerland. Long the beacon of hope for the proud sporting nation of Australia, he was nearly weighed down by the burden of expectation and the heft of a yearning continent. But Scott endured and then overcame with a resume that includes wins in The Players Championship, the Tour Championship, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, The Barclays in the FedExCup Playoffs and most famously last year's thundering run among the dogwoods and azaleas at the Masters.
And less than two years after he painfully squandered a 4-shot lead with four holes to play and lost by one stroke to Ernie Els in the 2012 British Open, Scott became the No. 1 player in the world.
Yet with all his triumph and burgeoning bank account, Scott continues to get annoyed when he comes up short. Even at 34, he isn't immune to starting anew with a fresh set of goals. Four years ago he revamped his schedule to concentrate on the majors. It bugs him that since winning the last of 11 PGA Tour titles at this year's Crowne Plaza Invitational, he hasn't added to his victory haul despite not being outside the top-15 in five starts, including four top-10s.
And while his look bared otherwise, he was seething Saturday after stumbling home with a 4-over-par 75 in the third round of The Barclays, the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs. After grabbing a share of the 36-hole lead with rounds of 69-65, he couldn't get anything going and will start Sunday's final round five shots behind leaders Jason Day and Jim Furyk.
Leaders: Day, Furyk look to final round
"I was just off," said Scott, who started nine groups ahead of the leaders and six shots behind but won last year's Barclays at Liberty National Golf Course. "Hopefully I'll come out swinging tomorrow."
Bank on it. Especially when he has a new target in his cross hairs – Rory McIlroy. The former Boy Wonder clearly has become the Man in professional golf by winning four of his last eight starts, including two majors – the British Open and the PGA Championship – that were sandwiched around victory in the WGC-Bridgestone. He also snatched away Scott's No. 1 ranking.
Rory: Odds against him Sunday
McIlroy is now inspiring and motivating Scott, so much so that this week he put a new Titleist driver in his bag to tackle Ridgewood Country Club.
"He's put on a clinic the last few weeks in how to drive the golf ball," said Scott, who said he was irritated that his younger colleague was outdriving him by 50 yards. "And it's motivating for me, because I can see what's possible. I believe if he can do it, I can do it for sure.
"I think you've got to draw motivation from wherever you can. I'm not afraid to say that I look at the way he played and I want that to be me. And I feel that I can play like that and have runs like that.
"You've got to learn from the best and he's one of them.
" … I'd love to get back to No. 1 and I think this is a good stretch of golf for me to try and do that. But the standard I'll have to play at is really high. So it would be great to put myself up in the mix and hopefully have Rory think he's got to look over his shoulder – at least for me."