Commentary

Scott nearly matches majors record

Updated: July 19, 2012, 6:08 PM ET
By Farrell Evans | ESPN.com

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- At the first hole Thursday morning, Steve Williams told his boss, Adam Scott, to start his day as though it were on 72nd hole on Sunday. Scott had played well in the Masters and the U.S. Open, but his chances of winning had been hampered by sloppy first rounds. Williams, who had caddied for Tiger Woods in 13 of his major wins, wasn't going to let his man begin the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes with another bad start.

Williams' pep talk spurred Scott, a 32-year-old Australian, to a first-round 6-under-par 64 and a 1-shot lead over Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts after 18 holes. With no rain and wind, Scott had eight birdies.

"It's nice to just take advantage of the calm conditions today," Scott said. "It was very pleasing to go out and play some solid golf. It's something that I haven't done in the first round of the majors this year.

"My goal at the start of the week was to play today like it was Sunday and there was no tomorrow. Now I have my work cut out for me the next couple of days to keep myself in position."

Scott pushed his score to 7 under with five birdies on the back nine and had a chance to shoot the lowest round in a major championship if he could land a birdie on the 18th. But he bogeyed the last hole after pulling his 2-iron into the rough.

Scott could have become the ninth player in Open Championship history to shoot a 63 and the 24th player to do it in any major. Rory McIlroy was the last to shoot 63 in an Open in 2010 in the first round at St. Andrews. Still, Scott's 64 on Thursday tied Tom Lehman for the lowest Open round at Lytham.

Scott wasn't aware of the historical implications of his round until he saw a leaderboard near the 17th tee and realized that Lytham was a par-70 course.

[+] EnlargeAdam Scott
Kyle Terada/US PresswireBefore Thursday, Adam Scott had never led after any round of a major championship.

"It's one of those things that you don't want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that," Scott said. "So I got rid of that quickly and got on to playing the 17th. But unfortunately [I] dropped one up the last."

Scott's best finish in 12 previous Opens was a tie for eighth in 2006 down the English coast at Royal Liverpool.

For more than a decade, Scott has been in the upper echelon of the game with elite wins at The Players Championship, the Tour Championship and last year's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But he's yet to break through with a career-defining win at a major. At the 2011 Masters, he had a 1-shot lead on the 71st hole on Sunday, but he was bulldozed by Charl Schwartzel's four closing birdies.

"I've won tournaments," Scott said. "I've won a couple of tournaments most years, which is a good habit to have, because it's getting harder and harder to win out here. And I'm looking for a win this year.

"But I would say I haven't achieved what I wanted until I win a major or more."

Lately, Scott has become better known for not playing much golf. Where's Adam Scott? That's been one of the running questions this year on the PGA Tour since he decided late last year that he would play fewer tournaments to stay fresher throughout the season.

Scott, an eight-time PGA Tour winner, took three months off from the game between the end of 2011 and the start of his season in February at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles. He watched a lot of tennis and hung out with family and friends in Australia.

Going into the Masters, Scott had played only eight competitive rounds on the season. At Augusta, he followed up his tie for second in 2011 with a tie for eighth. During the U.S. Open in June, he tied for 15th. He shot 76 in the first round at Olympic but came back with three even-par 70s.

On Thursday, he wasn't leaving anything to chance. He admitted that he had come out of the gate too conservatively in past majors.

"I was playing so well going into the U.S. Open I felt, and all of a sudden I was 7 over through 15 holes of the tournament, and you can't pick up that many shots in a major," Scott said. "So to focus and play the first hole at the tournament like it's the 72nd and you've got to make three to win was kind of my mindset on the first tee this morning, really switch on right from the first tee and not just see how it goes for the first few holes."

Scott said that Williams and his swing coach, Brad Malone, pushed him hard to fight from the beginning.

"I think their little gee-ups are good for me," Scott said. "I can feed off of it because I can cruise a little bit too much when I'm out on the golf course, and I can be very patient, which is a good thing at times. But it's [a] good thing to get me going right from the start and get me alert."

Scott will need all the reinforcements he can get if he wants to stay ahead of a crowded leaderboard early in an Open Championship that includes major winners Lawrie, Johnson, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.