Notebook: Scott enjoys rare fast start at Masters
Grabbed share of early lead with opening 3-under 69
April 11, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation in Round 1. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Australia’s Adam Scott had impressive command from tee to green, hitting nine of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation on the way to a 3-under 69.
The 2013 Masters champion’s day might have been even better but for the fact that he took 30 putts. Scott was tied with South Africa’s Justin Harding and Spain’s Jon Rahm with several players still out on the course during the first round of the 83rd Masters Tournament.
“Yeah, look, it's a great start on a kind of tricky day,” Scott said. “Even though it wasn't windy, I just felt it was very hard to get it near any of the pins through the first seven holes, whether I was just slightly out of position or the pins were just tough.”
Scott, a 13-time TOUR winner, was one of a handful of Presidents Cup hopefuls who enjoyed a solid start, also including Harding, Corey Conners (70), Cameron Smith (70) and 2012 Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen (71). Scott, 38, hasn’t won on TOUR since 2016, but finished second at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January.
He hasn’t teed up since finishing T12 at THE PLAYERS last month.
“Generally in my career I'm kind of a slow starter,” said Scott, who opened with 75s in each of the last two Masters, and 76 in 2016. “Certainly the last 10 years, I don't jump out of the gates, it seems. So, I don't know if this is jumping out of the gates, but it certainly is great.”
Scott started slow again Thursday. He was 1 over through seven holes but birdied the eighth, ninth, 15th, 17th and 18th. His bogeys came at the par-4 seventh and the par-3 12th holes.
“I've talked a lot about kind of being at peace with the golf course,” he said, “and understanding it can give you a lot. It can take it away as well, but certainly I feel like there's a lot of good karma if you treat it right out there. … A lot of past champions have a great rapport with this golf course and I think I kind of get that feeling too, so it does give you a little pump.”
Harding off to strong start in Masters debut
Justin Harding was playing the Valero Texas Open last week when he asked fellow South African Ernie Els for advice on how to play Augusta National.
Preparing for his first career start in the Masters Tournament at age 33, Harding figured there was no one better to ask about it than Els, the 2019 Presidents Cup captain, who amassed six top-10 finishes, including two runner-up finishes, in 23 starts. Els proffered some advice on where to aim and where not to miss, adding that he’d never hit it in the water at the tricky, par-3 12th hole.
“I said, ‘Thanks a lot, you just jinxed me,’” Harding said with a laugh after shooting a 3-under 69 in his first-ever round, good enough to take the early first-round lead despite a bogey at 18.
Harding made par at the 12th, and if anything could only fault his play on the four par-5s, which he played in just 1 under par. Otherwise, nothing much bothered the late-bloomer, who uses a long putter and is mostly unknown to American fans. He was 422nd in the world a year ago, but his maiden European Tour win in Qatar earlier this season, plus a T2 the next week and three other top-10 finishes, pushed him all the way to 49th and punched his ticket to Augusta.
“It's more about, I guess, how I'm handling myself out on the golf course,” Harding said after hitting 10 of 14 fairways, and only 10 greens in regulation but taking just 25 putts. “Not really getting too worked up, no longer going through the highs and lows of emotions.”
Also, he added, now that he’s started playing well, he can’t seem to stop.
“Golf is purely momentum-based,” Harding said. “If you take enough confidence into the rounds then you're bound to play well just pretty much need to get out of your own way.”
Harding has worked his way up to seventh in the International Presidents Cup standings, meaning he could be playing for Captain Els at Royal Melbourne in December.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” he said, “but way in the back.”
Conners rides momentum after win
In other news with Presidents Cup implications, Canada’s Corey Conners, who won last week’s Valero Texas Open to get to 10th on the International list, opened the Masters with a 2-under 70. The round was 10 shots better than his Masters debut in 2015, when he went 80-69 to miss the cut.
He was first off the tee at 8:30 a.m., and watched Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial first tee shots. He also accepted congratulations from Nicklaus on his first PGA TOUR win.
“That felt pretty special,” Conners said. “Never thought in a million years that Jack Nicklaus would know who I am and it just felt pretty cool.”
Weir shoots best round in five years
It’s been a rough stretch for Canada’s Mike Weir, 48, the 2003 Masters winner and eight-time PGA TOUR winner who has been trying to fight his way back on the Web.com Tour.
After going 3 over for his first seven holes, Thursday looked like more of the same, but Weir, who has a new coach (Mark Blackburn) turned it around with three birdies to card an even-par 72.
It was his best round since a second-round 72 in 2014, the last year he made the cut here.
“All in all, very happy,” said Weir, who will serve as one of Els’ assistants at the Presidents Cup in December. “Hit the ball great. I’ve got to sharpen up the putting a little bit.”
Weir took 31 putts.