By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PINEHURST North Carolina (Reuters) - Adam Scott has been a perennial contender in major championships over the past three years but, for reasons which he finds difficult to explain, he has mainly struggled at the U.S. Open.
One of the best ball-strikers in the game and blessed with a swing envied by many of his peers, Scott has all the credentials to shine in the year's second major which traditionally puts a premium on 'percentage' golf.
Yet, the 33-year-old has failed to make much of an impact at the U.S. Open, missing the cut six times in 12 starts with a best finish of joint 15th at the Olympic Club outside San Francisco in 2012.
"Certainly I haven't had the best record at the U.S. Open, and it's hard to put a finger on a lot of it," Scott told reporters on Wednesday.
"I've talked to you all about 10 years of playing pretty average, by my own expectations in majors, and tried to improve that the last few years. I've done a good job, but maybe not quite as good at the U.S. Open.
"However, I felt, at Olympic, I played very well the last 60 holes or so, after a really bad start on Thursday. And the confidence grew last year."
Scott's recent record in the other three majors has been impressive with seven top-10s in 13 starts, including his breakthrough victory at the 2013 Masters where he became the first Australian to claim the prized green jacket.
"Maybe it's coincidence that I haven't had my best stuff at a U.S. Open," he said. "But I certainly feel like where my game's at now, and the past few years, I should be able to compete here (at Pinehurst).
"I'm trying to build a game that can play anywhere. So this would be a good week for me to kind of turn the corner and get in contention. I think this course sets up well to me."
Pinehurst's fabled No. 2 Course, with its unique turtle-back greens which so often repel approach shots that might stay on the putting surfaces at many other courses, places a premium on a stellar short game.
Scott won his 11th PGA Tour title at the Crowne Plaza Invitational last month and was delighted to do so on a classic layout that does not favour long hitters.
"Winning at Colonial was a big feather in my cap," said Scott, who will be competing in his first major as world number one.
"It's a much smaller golf course than we normally play on Tour and to scale back and be precise off the tee with some irons and precise into the greens with wedges ... people say great wedge players win there.
"I'd like to put my name in that category, as well. That's been a lot of hard work on my shorter clubs over the last couple of years to get there. I'm trying to build a game that can compete at any event."
One factor in Scott's favour this week is that Pinehurst, with its sandy waste areas off the fairways and heavily contoured greens, reminds him of the famed Sand Belt golf courses in his native Australia.
"Absolutely," he smiled. "Certain bits of it, the edges of the fairway are a little bare, and that's fine, because the fairways are very generous. The proportions are all right.
"And then the waste areas and some of the green surrounds are similar to Sand Belt golf. But it also reminds us of a lot of other parts of the world, as well, I think."
Scott will tee off in Thursday's opening round in the company of fellow Masters champions Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden)