Adam Scott shot a five-under 66 on Thursday after a 6 a.m. tee time to move one stroke behind in the first round of the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland.
Three other Australians shot 65s in the afternoon group – Min Woo Lee, Jason Scrivener and John Lyras – to share the first-round lead.
Considered one of Australia’s rising stars, 24-year-old Lee is the brother of women’s champion Minjee Lee.
Brad Kennedy, Anthony Quayle and South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang matched Scott’s 66 to tie for fourth.
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Scott was playing in the same group in the early morning as British Open champion Cameron Smith, who was three shots behind after a 68, and Ryan Fox, second only to Rory McIlroy in the European Tour rankings this season, who had a 72.
The 35-year-old Fox is number 27 in the world after finishing last year in 213th place. The New Zealander won two European Tour events and finished second four times during his renaissance.
Scott had an early assignment for “new” golfer Steve Williams, who has come out of retirement to carry the bag for the 2013 Masters champion. When he woke up for the super early tee time, Scott couldn’t find his golf bag.
Eventually recovering from their manager’s hotel room, the pair were cheered by hundreds early on the 10th tee.
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“It was panic stations… Steve was kicking down doors,” laughed Scott of his early morning search for his clubs.
A strong approach game saw him get four birdies in five holes either side of the turn and then, after back-to-back bogeys put him back on the course, Scott’s putt gave him two more birdies in the final three holes.
Scott sought local advice on how to navigate Royal Queensland’s spectacularly undulating greens, which feature sharp runs. His decision to putt multiple times from the greens paid off.
“The situation couldn’t be better and you want to take advantage of that,” he said. “I’m very happy with it, all very solid stuff.”
Scott said Williams, who played for the Australian when he won the Masters nine years ago, was keen to return to the tournament.
“Yeah, it was great, obviously he hasn’t been to any events for quite a while, so I think he was pretty excited,” Scott said.
“We came out and played on Tuesday morning, it’s pretty easy. I might have changed, but I know he hasn’t and so I knew what to expect when we came out and falling back into familiar routines was pretty good.”
Australian PGA Championship Round 1
Worlds in Australia after a three-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, world No. 3 Smith shrugged off an “awkward” first nine with four birdies and was within touching distance of the lead.
“Scotty was playing really well, he’s coming into some form the old guy and he might be hard to chase,” Smith said.
“Yeah, I’d like that (final round match), haven’t done it yet with Scotty, that would be epic.”
Nicolai Hojgaard shot a 68 while his 21-year-old identical twin Rasmus Hojgaard had a 69. The Belgian siblings made European Tour history last year by winning tournaments.
Smith is among six players who have competed in Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf events this year. Others are Marc Leishman (69 on Thursday), Wade Ormsby (72) and defending champion Jed Morgan (70).
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