Adam Scott is on track to enter his Masters title defence as golf’s world No.
1 after shooting a course record-equalling 10-under-par 62 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Scott made a strong statement about readiness for next month’s Masters when he defied flu-like symptoms to make two eagles and seven birdies in his blistering opening round at Bay Hill, a course he has avoided in recent years.
The 33-year-old world No.2 matched the course mark held jointly by fellow Australian Greg Norman (1984) and American Andy Bean (1981) and seized a three-shot lead from Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and American John Merrick.
Scott is projected to finish fractionally behind Tiger Woods’ world No.1 mark should he win this event but with the ranking numbers working on a two-year rolling basis would officially become the No.1 in the week leading into the April 10-13 Masters should the injured Woods not play until Augusta as expected.
“Obviously I’m really thrilled with the start today,” said Scott.
“I think to make it to No.1 in anything is an incredible achievement, it’s a big world and there are a lot of people doing this.
“One week at No.1 would pale in significance to someone with the dominance of Tiger and some other guys but it’s a start and you’re heading in the right direction.
“I’ve got a chance…there is no better motivation than to win this tournament, shake Arnold’s hand and have a chance at world No.1.”
Scott needed just 23 putts, three from longer than 20 feet, in a round he believes ranks among the best five of his career.
“I don’t know where it came from, but the putter certainly got hot today,” he said.
“Today was just one of those days where the hole was a bit like a bucket.”
The Queenslander hasn’t played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational since missing the cut in 2009.
“I just had a few frustrating years here and left it off the schedule,” Scott said.
“Coming back here fresh was obviously a good thing.”
Scott last opened an event with a 62 at the 2011 World Golf Championships event at Firestone Country Club, where he won by four shots.
Starting off the 10th tee, Scott opened with a 19-foot birdie putt then reached a greenside bunker at the par-5 12th in two and went up and down from four feet for another birdie.
A 26-foot birdie putt at the par-3 14th was followed by a 28-foot birdie putt at the par-4 15th and his first eagle at the par-5 16th when Scott reached the green in two and sank a 36-foot putt.
Scott suffered his lone bogey at the par-4 18th, finding the left rough off the tee and with his second shot and then running a 29-foot par putt two feet beyond the cup.
Scott planned to rest given his illness to ensure he could keep the momentum going over the week.
“I’m going to focus this afternoon on drinking a lot of water and resting up and trying to feel a bit more sprightly tomorrow.”