SYDNEY (Reuters) - Adam Scott revived memories of Greg Norman’s glory days when he wowed the Sydney crowds with a brilliant 10-under-par 62 to take a three-stroke lead after the opening round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
The world number two, who managed what even Norman failed to do in his celebrated career by winning the U.S. Masters earlier this year, smashed the course record by three shots as he continued his celebratory tour of his homeland.
The Australian public were queuing up to get into the Royal Sydney Golf course soon after dawn on a beautiful sunny morning and Scott, who started his round at 7.10am local time, did not let them down.
A packed gallery watched as Scott picked up shots at each of his first six holes then added four more birdies on his last four holes for a blemish-free round that he said ranked with the best of his career.
“It was a really good start and a nice little course record to have at Royal Sydney,” Scott told reporters.
“I’ve felt there was a good round in me for four weeks and finally I threw it out there today.”
Scott’s previous rounds on his month-long trip back home have not been bad either, winning him the Australian PGA, Australian Masters and third place in Melbourne last weekend to help his country claim the World Cup of Golf.
Compatriot Jason Day finished first at the World Cup but could only watch on Thursday as his playing partner gave a masterclass of golf.
The world number two needed to sink only one putt longer than five feet - a 12 footer at the 15th - and his class was most notable when he was battling to save pars when his swing deserted him in the middle of the round.
“That’s how the best players in the world play and I got to witness it today and it was special,” said Day, who shot a two-under 70.
“That’s something that I’m going to remember for a long time. I look forward to playing with him tomorrow and hopefully catching him.”
Canadian Ryan Yip shot a 65 for second place with similarly unheralded American John Young Kim, one of the last players to tee off, joining him on seven-under with five birdies in his last seven holes.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, whose season has been almost as disappointing as Scott’s has been successful, hit five birdies but a couple of bogeys around the turn left him with a 69 and a share of 16th.
“I left three or four short ones out there, yeah, just wasteful,” said the world number six.
“When you see someone at 10-under-par, especially when you see it’s Adam Scott at the top, I felt like I was in neutral at three-under and not making birdies.
“It’s hard to give Adam Scott seven shots with three rounds to go.”
Scott is unlikely to enjoy such balmy conditions for the second round with the forecast predicting a quickening wind and rain for Friday.
Australian PGA chief executive Stephen Pitt is still expecting bumper crowds to pack the course, though, after 12,000 turned up on Thursday.
“Without getting too premature, I think we’re harking back to the great days of the 1990s and 2000s when we had such a charismatic figure as Greg Norman leading the charge,” he said.
“I think Adam’s sort of assuming that sort of popularity with Australian crowds and the Australian sporting audiences.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford