Adam Scott in familiar territory
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- In April, Adam Scott fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning the Masters. It was his first major victory and an awakening for him that more of these triumphs might lie ahead.
Now after a 65 on Thursday afternoon at Oak Hill in the first round of the PGA Championship, the 33-year-old Australian is in a good position to win his second major of the year.
He is tied for the lead with Jim Furyk, who also shot 65 on Thursday.
After opening his round with three consecutive pars, Scott reeled off five straight birdies from the fourth through the eighth hole.
Following a birdie at the 14th to get to 6 under, it appeared as if Scott might threaten to tie or break the course record of 64 shared by Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange. But he had a late bogey and needed to make a great par save at the 18th to stay tied with Furyk.
"Probably the best run I've ever had and I just hit really nice shots and didn't leave myself too much work," Scott said of his birdie streak. "You have to take advantage of that if you are feeling that and I was through the turn there. It was a dream start after kind of a nervous first couple of holes."
On Thursday, Scott played with the two other major champions on the year, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. They were the marquee group in an afternoon that had about an hourlong weather delay due to lightning in the area.
"I was hot when the rain came," Scott said. "And to go back out and have 234[-yard] par-3 with your first shot is a little tough.
"I was scrambling and not quite in the same rhythm as I was in. I was going along nicely, I still felt. It's always tough with a rain delay like that when you're playing well."
Scott has had only three top-10s in 12 previous trips to the PGA. When it was last here in 2003, Scott tied for 23rd.
It's not surprising that he's in this position in a major championship. In his past 11 majors, he has six top-10s, including a win and two seconds. Only Lee Westwood has been as productive over that period in these events.
Tiger Woods may be the No. 1-ranked player in the world and the man everyone was talking about coming into this week after his fifth win of the year at Firestone. In recent years, though, Scott has emerged as a leading man in the majors.
With the exception of the U.S. Open at Merion, where he struggled to a tie for 45th, Scott has been spectacular in the majors in 2013.
Last month in the final round of the Open Championship, Scott held the outright lead after 11 holes but had four consecutive bogeys down the stretch to finish in a tie for third and 4 shots back of the winner, Mickelson.
He said that he was more disappointed about that finish in Muirfield than he was in 2012 about his collapse at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
The Aussies' 65 on Thursday is further proof of this new role he's taken in the majors. He's comfortable in this spotlight and has learned from his failures.
Earlier this week, Scott praised Oak Hill as a "good, genuine, fair test."
"You're not really going to get a bad break for hitting a good shot out here," he said. "The good shots will be rewarded and the bad shots will be fairly punished, depending on how bad you hit it."
After his round on Thursday, he continued to praise the East course setup.
"I think the [PGA of America] got it right," he said. "The greens were soft today and that was by Mother Nature more than anything. So if they firm up a little bit, we're going to have a tough test over the next three days."
Oak Hill gives him a great opportunity to redeem that disappointing finish at Muirfield. On Thursday, Scott was as perfect at stretches as any player who was on the course during the day.
It's only one round, but he is the man to beat.
The leaderboard is full of hungry players trying to win their first major or come out of a long drought. It's a wide-open race on a course that will likely yield many birdies over the next three days.
Jim Furyk is a 16-time tour winner and U.S. Open champion, but he hasn't won a tournament since 2010. Westwood, who has rivaled Scott the past few years on leaderboards in majors, is just 1 shot back of the lead after a 66 on Thursday. But he's yet to prove that he can close the deal in a major. His best opportunity to win a major might have come at Muirfield.
But Scott is a man in full. He's seen it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, and come out a better player and competitor. If he doesn't go on to win this week, it won't be because of inexperience or stage fright.
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