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Scott shakes major slow starts, follows advice to top of Open leaderboard

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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Caddie Steve Williams sparks Adam Scott's big day with a key piece of advice. (AP)  
Caddie Steve Williams sparks Adam Scott's big day with a key piece of advice. (AP)  

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Adam Scott followed one simple mantra when he stepped to the first tee at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on Thursday.

"Play the first hole of the tournament like it's the 72nd and you've got to make three to win," Scott told himself.

If only he had actually done that on the last hole he would have earned a solitary place in history as the first player to ever shoot a 62 in a major championship. Scott bogeyed the last instead to settle for a course record-tying 64 and the pole position in front of six major winners at the British Open.

While the golf world was watching to see if Scott would make history on the 18th hole, but the Australian already knew he had flushed his chances at the porta-potty on 17.

"I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee and I did take a look at the leaderboard and realized it was a par 70," said Scott, who was 7 under and needed just one more birdie coming in to reach the magic number of 62. "And I also probably then realized that I wasn't going to be the guy to shoot 62. It's one of those things that you don't want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that."

Scott parred 17 but pulled his 2-iron off the 18th tee in the rough, forcing a layup. He failed to get up-and-down underneath the Lytham clubhouse. It was his second bogey of the day but first since the third hole.

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"Unfortunately dropped one up the last," he said. "Making a bogey here or there is fine. Making doubles and triples is what really hurts. So just getting out of trouble was good."

As far as Open links go, Thursday morning's circumstances could not have been filled with less trouble. Almost no wind and softer than typical greens allowed players to fill their scorecards with red numbers provided they kept the ball out of the thick rough and 206 bunkers.

"It's nice just to take advantage of the calm conditions today," said Scott. "It was surprising but very pleasing to go out and play some solid golf. It's what I haven't done the first rounds of the majors this year, and that was my goal here, really, starting the week was to play today like it was Sunday and there was no tomorrow."

That mental cue was put in Scott's head by veteran caddie Steve Williams. While six of the names lined up behind the leader all have major victories -- Paul Lawrie and Zach Johnson at 5 under with Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell and Bubba Watson at 3 under -- Williams is working with 13 major titles in his own right to feed confidence to Scott.

It was Williams who suggested that Scott get after it right away to avoid the pitfalls he fell into with slow starts at both the Masters and U.S. Open this year.

"I was playing so well going into the U.S. Open I felt, and all of a sudden I was 7 over through 15 holes of the tournament, and you can't pick up that many shots in a major," Scott said. "So to focus and play the first hole of the tournament like it's the 72nd and you've got to make three to win was kind of my mindset on the first tee this morning -- really switch on right from the first tee and not just see how it goes for the first few holes. That was a good little trigger [Williams] kind of helped out with."

Scott is filled with confidence this week and Thursday's 64 only enhanced it. He turned 32 on Monday, receiving a small leather carry golf bag as a gift from his family.

"I thought it was quite a funny present to give me a golf bag," he said.

He's also playing a links where Australian Peter Thomson won one of his five British Opens.

"He's the first pro I ever caddied for, actually, when I was 10," Scott said of Thomson.

Now he has a lead on an all-star leaderboard with three rounds to erase the one glaring omission on his career résumé.

"I haven't achieved my goal of winning major championships," he said. "That's what I've dreamt of as a kid and that's what I made goals when I turned pro and what I've thought about since turning pro, so I guess I haven't achieved that. I would say I haven't achieved what I've wanted until I win a major or more."

It would be foolish to expect the next three days to be as easy as the first or for another chance to shoot 62 to be around the corner, but Scott is in a very good place.

"I'm not really expecting it to play like this at all," he said. "It was just like a nice walk in the park today, and it was not what we've experienced in the practice rounds. I'm sure there's going to be some weather elements thrown at us the next three days. So just going to have to knuckle down to handle that.

"But I'm confident. My ball striking is good. I think I can get it around no matter what the conditions are."

Scott Michaux is the sports columnist and golf writer for The Augusta Chronicle.

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