Adam Scott equals course record with opening 62 at Bay Hill
Graeme McDowell leads Irish challenge after four-under-par 68
Adam Scott plays his third shot from a bunker on the 12th hole on his way to a round of 62 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida. Photograph: Michael Cohen/Getty Images.
Scott carded two eagles, seven birdies and one bogey to set a daunting clubhouse target of 10 under par, matching the course record shared by Andy Bean (1981) and fellow Australian Greg Norman (1984).
“Obviously I’m really thrilled with the start,” said Scott, who is closing in on Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings ahead of his US Masters defence in three weeks’ time.
“It’s maybe a little surprising. I don’t know where it came from, but the putter certainly got hot.”
Scott is making his first appearance at Bay Hill since 2009. He missed the cut in his last two starts and his only top-10 finish in six previous appearances came in 2004, when he tied for third.
“I just had a few frustrating years here and left it off the schedule,” Scott said after his round. “Coming back fresh was obviously a good thing. But I like the changes they’ve made since the time I have not been here. And today was just one of those days where the hole was a bit like a bucket.”
The reigning Masters champion started on the 10th and birdied his opening hole before picking up another shot on the par-five 12th after getting up and down from a bunker.
Scott then holed from 25ft on the 14th and from a similar distance off the green on the next, before continuing his hot putting streak by making an eagle from 35ft on the par-five 16th.
His solitary bogey came from an errant approach to the 18th, but the 33-year-old bounced back quickly with a birdie from close range on the third and another eagle from 20ft on the fourth.
Further birdies on the sixth and seventh meant matching front and back nines of 31 and left Scott four ahead of Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who also covered the back nine in 31 to return a 66.
England’s Paul Casey was a shot further back on five under alongside American duo Morgan Hoffmann and Brandt Snedeker, while US Open champion Justin Rose and WGC-Cadillac Championship winner Patrick Reed – playing alongside Scott – shot 71 and 69 respectively.
Scott’s predecessor as Masters champion, Bubba Watson, withdrew after an opening 83 – which contained an 11 on the par-five sixth – citing allergy problems.
Scott cannot overhaul the absent Woods – the defending champion pulled out on Tuesday with on-going back problems – with a victory on Sunday, but would claim top spot before his Masters defence if both players did not play again before the year’s first major at Augusta.
Graeme McDowell led the Irish challenge with a four under par round of 68. The Portrush man, who bogeyed his opening hole, got to five under after 13 with birdies at the third, fifth, 12th and 13th and an eagle at the sixth but he slipped up with a six at the par five 16th and parred in from there.
Padraig Harrington, needing a win over the next couple of weeks to earn an invitation to the Masters, had a steady round of 70 with four birdies and two bogeys. Darren Clarke was never under par in his round of 75.