The SportingJournal

Scott makes strong start to title defence

Defending champion Adam Scott has fired a four-under 67 to be in a tie for second place after the opening round of the Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne on Thursday.

Scott began his day on the 11th hole of the famed composite layout, and immediately gave himself an opportunity for birdie, but his putt slid by the hole.

“I’m happy with the round, but I have not done much practice since last week,” he said.

“Four rounds like that might go a long way this week.”

But he didn’t have to wait long before he moved into red numbers, stiffing his approach into the short par-four 13th [his third] and converting from close range.

He had another chance on the 15th, but failed to get up and down for birdie at the par-five.

Scott made important par saves at the ensuing 16th and 18th holes, before catching fire after the turn, stringing together four birdies between the first and fourth holes, after which point the modest galleries swelled.

“I did not make all the putts that I would have liked to today,” he said. “I felt like I left a couple out there but my game was in pretty good shape.”

Those missed opportunities came at the short par-three fifth and driveable par-four sixth, where Scott had makeable birdie putts on both occasions.

He sits in a tie for second alongside German visitor Maximillian Kieffer, whose practice had been hindered by Melbourne’s unenviable weather this week.

He had only played the opening nine holes in practice, but it didn’t seem to matter, as he pieced together a bogey-free round that included two birdies and an eagle.

South Australian and 2013 QLD Open champion Nick Cullen is the man to catch after Thursday. He holds the first round lead after a sizzling 65 that included three birdies and a bogey on his opening nine, before an eagle at the 11th and birdies on 12 and 13 sent him into the outright lead.

In a tournament filled with storylines, Jarrod Lyle made a successful comeback to professional golf during Thursday’s opening round. Despite finding himself in a spot of bother during the middle stages of his round, Lyle rallied to finish with a one-over 72.

Lyle was greeted by a large gallery of supporters decked out in canary yellow shirts and hats for the foundation, Challenge. And it was certainly the fairy-tale of the week thus far.

“It was nice to get out there and see everybody that I love standing around the tee. The crowd around the first tee was something I wasn’t expecting,” he said.

“It’s nice to shoot a reasonable score and beat my expectations.”

Now he realises that even the odd bogey on the card registers very low on any scale when compared to what he’s gone through with his health.

“The bogies that I’ve made today. They don’t hurt…It just didn’t seem to matter today…It’s just another bogey,” he said.

“I want to stand up on Sunday afternoon, walk off the 18th green and go: ‘I’ve played four days. How bloody good is that?’”

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