Saturday, December 16, 2017
Golf

Adam Scott leads first round of British Open after 6-under 64

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — In 13 years on the PGA Tour, perhaps the only negative thing that has been said about Adam Scott is that he is too nice.

It comes as faint praise. Calling Scott too nice is the same as saying the amiable Australian lacks the killer's instinct to win a major championship.

For a few hours Thursday, he may have had a transformative moment in the first round of the British Open.

In the early going, Tiger Woods was unmistakably in his taking-charge mode. With four birdies in his first seven holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Woods held the lead as he marched quickly from hole to hole, his face calm and his eyes steely.

Four holes ahead of Woods, Scott also recognized the benign course conditions — little wind or rain and temperatures near 60 — and birdied the 11th hole to close in on Woods.

He then made birdies on the next two holes to snatch the lead. From there it was Scott, with familiar poise but a new zeal in his eyes, who took control, increasing his lead as Woods wobbled.

Scott — using Woods' old caddie and Woods' old swing — finished atop the leaderboard, his 6-under 64 equaling the lowest British Open score at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Woods was three back.

Scott said he did it by fighting to be a little more mean. But Scott, who turned 32 Monday, didn't use the word mean. He chose the phrase "geeing up," common in Australia and elsewhere, and meaning to rouse, encourage or incite.

It was his caddie, Steve Williams — Woods' former employee — who did the geeing up, giving Scott what others might call a pep talk before the round.

"The little gee-ups are good for me," Scott said. "It gets me alert. I like that. I can feed off of it because I can cruise a little bit too much when I'm out on the golf course. My goal (Thursday) was to play … like it was Sunday and there was no tomorrow."

Scott, who has won eight PGA Tour events but never a major, had a one-stroke lead over 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts. Brandt Snedeker was next after 4-under 66.

Lurking at 3 under with Woods were seven others, including major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson and Ernie Els. In all, seven majors winners were within three shots of the lead.

Woods might have made more of a run at Scott had he putted better. But slow greens are always Woods' undoing, and with all the rain the course has seen this summer, Woods again struggled to find the right pace.

From the eighth to the 14th holes, he had makable birdie putts he did not convert.

"But I was close to making a lot of those, so I'm pleased with my round," Woods said. "I'm just going to have to hit my putts a little harder."

Woods, Scott and most of the other top-10 finishers played in the morning. The afternoon scores were generally higher as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up slightly.

Still, three dozen players had rounds in the 60s, and all in the field broke 80. It was the first time the field had been under 80 in an Open first round since 1998 at Royal Birkdale, ESPN said.

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