MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Adam Scott played what he called “stress-free golf” and birdied five of his final eight holes Thursday for a 7-under 64 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Australian Masters.
Scott lost in playoffs in two previous appearances at Huntingdale Golf Club in 2002 and 2003. He has won the tournament at two other nearby sand-belt courses – in 2012 at Kingston Heath and 2013 at Royal Melbourne.
Daniel Fox, who started on the 10th hole, birdied his final five holes on the front nine for a 65 and was in second place. Three other Australians were tied for third with 67s – Mathew Goggin, Peter Wilson and Matthew Stieger.
Starting on the back nine, Scott made the turn in 2-under 33. He birdied the second, third and fourth holes on the front nine, added another on the par-5 seventh and finished with a birdie on the ninth.
“That’s the start I was after,” Scott said. “There was no wind, and weighing everything up, there was no need to challenge it. It was pretty stress-free golf.”
Scott had caddie David Clark on his bag Thursday, and said he expected the Englishman to do the “bulk of the work” next year with former longtime caddie Steve Williams on duty for nine or 10 tournaments.
Fox and Goggin were the only late starters on the leaderboard after winds picked up about midday.
“A slow start, but magic at the end,” said Fox, who was 1-under after nine holes.
American amateur Bryson DeChambeau, playing in Scott’s threesome, shot 69 and was in a large group five shots behind.
The 22-year-old Californian, who attended Southern Methodist University, won both the U.S. Amateur and the collegiate NCAA Division I championship this year, only the fifth golfer to achieve that feat. The others were Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore.
“He’s had a really successful summer, and then after a bit of an average start today, he’s clawed it back and he seems to have everything under control,” Scott said of DeChambeau. “I think it’s great he’s come down here and playing. He just wants to develop and get better and better, because he’s obviously had an exciting year.”
DeChambeau’s round included an eagle from the fairway on the par-4 eighth. It’s his second trip to Melbourne this year after playing in an amateur event at Royal Melbourne in January, and he’s entered in next week’s Australian Open in Sydney.
“My team and I think it’s important to travel the world and play golf in as many different conditions as I can,” he said.
Australian Peter Senior, a regular on the Champions Tour, shot 70, as did American George McNeil, who is playing an Australian tournament for the first time.
Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium shot 75 while Australian Steven Bowditch nearly went out of bounds with his opening tee shot and had trouble with his driver all day to finish with a 77.