Adam Scott walked onto the 1st tee at The Australian Golf Club shortly before 11.50am. The rapturous applause from the fans ringing the tee was greeted with a smile and a wave from the 2013 Masters Champion.
After shaking the hands of playing partners Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey, he pegged up his ball and smashed it 335 metres down the middle of the fairway below. He couldn’t have run down there and placed it in a better position. The favourite to win the 104th Australian Open was away in fine style.
He backed up his prodigious drive with a smooth wedge into close range of the flag.
And it all went downhill from there.
He two-putted the first for par and two-putted on the 2nd green, this time for bogey.
He appeared to right the ship over the next few holes before a wayward drive on the par-5 5th led to another bogey. A third bogey for the round at the par-4 6th appeared to deflate an increasingly frustrated former World No.1.
On the 7th hole, he failed to take advantage of a 312-metre drive, which left him hitting a lob wedge for his second shot but he couldn’t get any closer than 20 feet, leading to another two-putt par.
When he missed the 8th fairway with his drive he was forced to chip out from under shrubby trees and the resulting bogey was inevitable.
A tick over two hours and 20 minutes after his opening drive Scott stood on the 10th tee four over par and already 10 shots behind the then sole clubhouse leader, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya.
Players suffered stinging eyes and difficulty breathing with thick bushfire smoke hanging low over the course. PHOTO: Getty Images.
Scott was treading water early on the back nine but looked a good chance to birdie the par-5 14th hole. But his head appeared to be elsewhere. His usual pre-putt routine looked a little rushed and when he missed the birdie, he compounded his problems by lipping out his par putt from two feet.
While a two-putt birdie at the short par-5 final hole saw him sign for a four over 75, Scott will start the second round 10 shots adrift of co-leaders Kanaya and little-known Chinese Taipei amateur, Chun-An Yu. That sees Scott tied for 110th place and trailing all five of his Presidents Cup team mates.
So, where did it all go wrong for Scott on day one?
“I just was out of sorts out there,” Scott said after his round. “I lost my rhythm after the 1st hole. I thought I had two nice shots there and missed and then I really struggled on the front nine.
“I hit some really bad drives left and didn’t scramble. Not that I was really chipping either, I was coming in with full stuff for my thirds. I didn’t play very good.”
Scott hit 10 out of 14 fairways during this round (two more than leader Kanaya), but when he missed the short grass he was heavily penalised every time, which ultimately put a lot of pressure on the rest of his game to rescue a decent score. A telling stat was his 35 putts for the round.
But, according to Scott, poor swing rhythm is entirely to blame.
“Rhythm … it felt very quick from the top on a few swings,” he said matter-of-factly. “My thought was to try and clear my hips, but I think I was clearing everything but. I was a bit out of sorts.
“About the 9th, I kind of managed to find a bit of feeling, but I didn’t have a lot of feeling out there, which is tough to play, especially because it was windy and didn’t give you a lot of room for error on your start lines and I paid the price a few times.”
Scott is no stranger to slow starts and he’s confident of turning around his Stonehaven Cup campaign.
“I felt a little better on my back nine but I couldn’t get a putt to go down, so hopefully a quick start tomorrow,” he said.
“It’s much nicer to start off the 10th than the 1st … much more friendly. You can get off to a good start on the back nine and hopefully by the end of the day I can be in the red figures and start my climb.”
Despite the wealth of talent assembled for this year’s championship, tournament officials will also be praying Scott can make an impact in the second round and make the cut.