McCarron has also won the respect and fondness of his peers. If the PGA Tour is like high school, McCarron is a mainstay of the in crowd. He's a player director on the PGA Tour policy board. He plays golf in Ireland with Tiger Woods and David Duval. He has fished in Alaska with Mark O'Meara and John Cook. Greg Norman invites him to go sailing on his yacht. "Greg's an adrenaline junkie," McCarron notes. "So am I."
"I love the guy. He's so good and kindhearted," says Brad Faxon, McCarron's partner for the last few years in the Franklin-Templeton Shootout, which they won in 2000 and 2001. In fact, McCarron has won more partnership events—including the 1997 Shootout with Bruce Lietzke and the 2002 Fred Meyer Challenge with Brian Henninger—than individual tournaments. "He's a very compassionate person," says Albaugh, "and he has the ability to give energy to people."
If there's anything wrong with this picture, it may be that McCarron lacks the core of cold steel required to elevate a player from the ranks of the very good to the ranks of those who win majors.
"Some players who have won majors have told me that maybe I need to toughen up and not be such a nice guy," McCarron acknowledges.
He's taken steps to improve on last year's performance, when, though he topped a million dollars in earnings, he didn't win. He's playing a new ball and new clubs, has hired a trainer and is working out more than ever.
But McCarron will never be a dour grinder who lives on the range. "I can't hit balls all day long like Vijay Singh," he says. "My body won't take that kind of punishment. I need to be preparing myself to play when it's time to play, and when it's not time to play, I need to get away from it. If not, I'll start resenting the game. I've been through that before with college, and it just wore me out."
Accordingly, he won't leave Reno for a warmer locale, where he could get in a few extra weeks on the range each year. For one thing, Jennifer's parents live in Reno. For another, McCarron likes the neighborhood in which they're raising their daughters. Those things are important to him.
But so are his professional goals. "I'd like to win a few majors," he says. "Not just one. I'd like to continue winning Tour events. Instead of three wins I'd like to have ten wins, and I'd like to win more than once in a season."
"I play golf to be in position to win with five holes, nine holes to play," he says. "It's that excitement, not knowing what's going to happen. How am I going to handle myself?It's all on the line. I mean, one of the greatest quotes in Golf in the Kingdom is, 'Gowf is a way o' makin' a man naked.'"
The question Scott McCarron faces is whether the twain can meet, whether he can be the sort of person who savors twilight golf at North Berwick yet winds up posing with the Claret Jug. "I'm proud that people think I'm a nice guy," he says. "I think you can do both."
CURRENT WORLD RANK: 67
PGA TOUR CAREER MONEY RANK: 59 ($7,656,128)
2003 PGA TOUR MONEY RANK: 54 ($1,250,849)
PGA TOUR VICTORIES: 3, the Freeport-McDermott Classic (1996) and the BellSouth Classic (1997 and 2001)
THE MAJORS: Best finishes are tied for tenth in the Masters (1996), the U.S. Open (1997) and the PGA Championship (1997).
2003 TOUR STATS: Twelfth in birdie conversions (33.5 percent), fifteenth in putts per round (28.44), eighteenth in putting average (1.741) and twenty-first in round-three scoring average (69.53).
As of January 20, 2004