April 10, 2014
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Adam Scott shot 69 on Thursday and is one shot off Bill Haas' lead. (Harry How/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Only three times in the history of the Masters has a player successfully defended his title.
Adam Scott is in good position to try to add his name to that list after a 3-under 69 left him one shot off the lead Thursday at Augusta National.
"There's no doubt winning the Masters last year had me a little more comfortable on the first tee than I've ever been in the past," Scott said. "I didn't have the legs shaking and nerves jangling for six or seven holes like usual.
"I felt confident coming in today. I've been swinging well. Putting felt good. So I fully expected to play a solid round of golf."
He did just that, making birdie on the opening hole before adding two more on Nos. 6 and 8 to make the turn in 3 under.
Scott added another birdie on the 10th to take the lead at 4 under, then the wind started to pick up.
He rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 12th when his ball hit the bank short of the green and bounced back into Rae's Creek. He went on to make double bogey.
"I just lost a little focus on that shot and didn't commit fully to it," Scott said. "It was a weak shot."
How he responded was anything but. Two holes later Scott made birdie before sinking a critical par putt on 18.
"That was a nice way to end the day and not walk off shooting 70," he said.
It was the fifth time in Scott's last six rounds at Augusta National that he has shot in the 60s. He's 18 under in that span with an average score of 69.
"Since (2010), it's been a lot of good shots and some good, positive memories for me," Scott added. "I hope I get on one of those runs why I'm one of the guys who kind of develops an affinity for the golf course like Phil Mickelson has and many other guys have, as well, over the years. I feel the course sets up well for me and while it's like this, I've got to take advantage of it."
To Scott's point, Mickelson won three Masters titles between 2004 and 2010.
Just five times a defending champion had led after the first round the following year -- the last coming in 1994 when Jose Maria Olazabal opened with a 66.
Thursday also marked the lowest opening round by a defending champion at the Masters in 13 years.
"Getting off to a good start in major is huge, because I think they are the hardest tournaments to kind of chase," he said. "Birdies aren't that easy to come by usually at majors, and if you're six back, five back, 10 back after the first round, it's a hard three days in front of you to peg it back. You almost have to play flawless."