Adam Scott had a chance to record the lowest score in Major Championship history when he stood on the 18th tee at Royal Lytham St Annes, needing a birdie for a 62 at The Open Championship.
Instead he pulled his tee shot into the rough and bogeyed, but his 64 was still a fine effort.
Despite a forecast for wind and rain, relatively calm conditions prevailed during round 1, allowing Scott to put up a number that became the target for the rest of the field.
“It was just like a nice walk in the park today, and it was not what we’ve experienced in the practice rounds,” said Scott. “I’m sure there’s going to be some weather elements thrown at us the next three days. So just going to have to knuckle down to handle that.”
Scott, who has recorded just one top ten in 12 previous appearances in The Open, had the chance to create history when he stood seven under with two to play, but the 31 year old had to settle for equalling the lowest Open round at Lytham, which was set by Tom Lehman on his way to The Claret Jug in 1996.
Scott’s form has been solid lately, due in part to a change in mental focus.
”That was my goal, to play like this was Sunday and there was no tomorrow,” he said
Scott played some spectacular golf throughout the round -which went mostly unseen by Australian golf fans. The event was not broadcast on Free-to-Air television, and those who were fortunate enough to have Foxtel only caught the occasional glimpse of Scott, as the main broadcast focussed more on players like Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia — who all failed to generate anything exciting on the course.
Among the other Aussies, Aaron Townsend bogeyed the last hole to take the shine off an otherwise flawless performance in the first round of his maiden Major. Sixteen pars in-a-row followed by a birdie on the 17th saw the Australian in great shape on the final tee, but he walked off the green with his only bogey of the day — happy nevertheless in joint 37th place, six shots behind Scott.
Ashley Hall, meanwhile, another Aussie playing his first Major, closed with a 71 following an heroic comeback that saw him shoot five birdies on the back nine after making the turn at six over.
Playing in the last group of the day, Hall missed a birdie putt on the last by inches that would have left him at level par. He is still well-placed for a lucrative weekend as he begins the second round in joint 54th place.
“Almost a clean sheet,” said Townsend said after his round.
“I played really good today. Some of the pars felt like birdies and some felt like a soft par, but I’m still very happy.”
Townsend, who hails from Newcastle in New South Wales, made it to Royal Lytham & St Annes by winning International Final Qualifying in a gale in Melbourne earlier this year, and conditions were expected to be tougher for Thursday’s opening round after weeks of bad weather.
But there was scarcely a puff of wind for the morning starters, and no more than a few minutes of soft drizzle fell.
“Par is supposed to be a good score out there, but then we had some really nice conditions,” said Townsend.
“Still, I’m happy to shoot par. I’d be happy to take three more of them if I can do that.”
Fellow Aussie and OneAsia tournament winner Nick Cullen, also making his debut in the world’s oldest Major, came to even more grief on the last after scrambling to level par for 17 holes.
He put his tee shot into one of Royal Lytham’s notorious bunkers and took three shots to get out, before closing with a triple-bogey seven and a 73.
“I struggled all day. I hit it pretty terribly off the tee,” said Cullen, who won the OneAsia season-opening Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open for the first win of his professional career in March.
“But my short game was great. I got up and down a lot (and) made a couple of birdies on the tough holes.
“The wind started a bit on the back stretch there and I hit a bad tee shot on 18 into a bunker up against the lip and left it in there twice and took three to get out.”
Hall showed great character after his round appeared headed for disaster following three bogeys and two doubles on the opening nine.
“I said to Dad, who was caddying for me, that I wasn’t the worst front nine out there — I had seen some guy who was around eight over,” said Hall.
“I said to him ‘Lets maybe try and shoot the best back nine of the day’ and he said ‘don’t get too greedy’, but I said ‘lets be greedy, I’ve got to get back into the tournament’.”
His greed paid off.
Hall shot the best back nine of the day on a course that is recognized as having one of the toughest finishing stretches on the Open circuit, while his front nine was actually the third worst of the day.
ADAM SCOTT PRESS CONFERENCE
(With European Tour and OneAsia Tour)