Brisbane, Australia — Adam Scott hit a 5-under 66 Thursday after 6am BST to follow it by one stroke after the first round of the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland.
Three more Australians shot 65s in afternoon sets – Min-woo Lee, Jason Scrivener and John Lleras – to share a first-round lead.
Brad Kennedy, Anthony Cowell and South Korea’s Jeonjun Wang tied Scott’s No. 66 and tied for fourth.
Scott was playing in the same group early in the morning with World Open champion Cameron Smith, who is three strokes behind after a 68, and Ryan Fox, a close runner-up to Rory McIlroy on the DP World Tour Order of Merit this season, who had a 72.
The 35-year-old Fox is No. 27 in the world after finishing last year at 213. The New Zealander has won two European Tours and finished second in his season.
Scott had an early assignment for “new” caddy Steve Williams, who came out of retirement to carry the bag for the 2013 Masters champion. When he got up very early, Scott couldn’t find his golf bag.
Eventually retrieved from his manager’s hotel room, the pair were greeted by hundreds of early risers on the 10th tee.
Scott laughed at his early morning search for his club: “The panic stations were… Steve was kicking in doors.”
His aggressive playing style resulted in four birdies pecking at five holes either side of the inning, and then, after successive bogeys put him back on the course, Scott gave him two more birdies on the final three holes.
Scott sought local advice on how to navigate Royal Queensland’s wildly undulating greens that feature steep runs. His decision to sideline several times paid off.
“The conditions couldn’t be better,” he said, “and you want to take advantage of that.” “I’m very happy with that, all really solid stuff.”
Scott said Williams, who wore the Australian bar when he won the Masters nine years ago, was keen to get him back into the tournament.
“Yeah, he was great, obviously he hadn’t been out in any events for a long time, so I think he was really excited,” Scott said. “We went out and played on Tuesday morning, it’s so easy. I might have changed, but I know it wasn’t, and so I knew what to expect when we went out and getting back into a familiar routine was a good thing.”
Returning to Australia after a three-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, world number three Smith shrugged off an “uncomfortable” first nine with four birdies and stayed within striking distance of the lead.
“Scotty’s been playing really well. He’s getting into shape, old man, and it can be hard to catch him,” said Smith. “Yeah, I’d like that (final round match), I haven’t done that yet with Scotty, it’s going to be epic. “
The 24-year-old told me his attitude the past few months has been “just having fun”.
“Lots of families and kids out there and I love showing off and inspiring little kids,” he told me. “I was one of those kids who was trying to get a ball or trying to get a top five… This was not so long ago.”
Nicolai Hougaard shot 68, while his identical twin Rasmus Hougaard, 21, had 69. The Belgian siblings made European Tour history last year by winning back-to-back tournaments.
Smith is among six players to take part in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf event this year. Other players include Mark Lishman (Thursday 69), Wade Ormsby (72) and defending champion Jed Morgan (70).