Masters champion Adam Scott climbed out of his sick bed and into a three-shot lead after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday.
Scott felt lousy all night, but his decision to play proved a good one, as he carded a majestic 10-under-par 62 that tied the course record at Bay Hill.
“I was up with the doctors this morning, a bit fluey and pretty lethargic,” he told Golf Channel. “I think getting out in the fresh air was good for me and moving around a little bit, rather than feeling sorry for myself in bed.”
Nobody came close to matching Scott, with young Japanese standout Ryo Ishikawa and American John Merrick best of the rest, shooting 65 in the afternoon.
World No. 2 Scott is regarded by many as the best driver in the game, and he took advantage of his length and accuracy off the tee to demolish the four par-fives, which he negotiated in six-under en route to the first 62 at Bay Hill since his boyhood idol Greg Norman three decades ago.
The Australian also wielded his long putter like a magic wand in his final tournament before he defends his green jacket at the April 10 to April 13 Masters, needing just 23 putts as he mixed two eagles with seven birdies and a bogey in ideal morning conditions.
“I’m really thrilled with the start today,” Scott, making his first Bay Hill start since 2009, said.
“It’s maybe a little surprising. I don’t know where it came from, but the putter certainly got hot today. Today was just one of those days where the hole was like a bucket,” he said.
With a win tomorrow, the 33-year-old from Adelaide, South Australia, can move to within a whisker of taking the world No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods, the eight-time Bay Hill champion who is not defending due to back spasms.
“There’s no better motivation for me this week than to win this tournament, and shake Arnold’s hand and be No. 1 in the world,” Scott said. “It’s all there for me to take. I had it rolling today, but I can’t get cocky.”
Meanwhile, Ishikawa, finished strongly with five birdies and a bogey in his final seven holes.
“The wind is tricky, so it’s not easy, but it was a very comfortable round for me,” said the 22-year-old, who is finding his feet on the PGA Tour after already winning 10 times in Japan, where he once shot a 58.
It was not such a good day for 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson. Citing allergies, he withdrew after an 11-over 83 that included an 11 at the par-five sixth, where he drove three balls into the water.