Simon Veness marvels at Adam Scott's magical round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Simon Veness blogs on Adam Scott's sensational course record at Arnie's Acres in Florida.
By Simon Veness
Last Updated: 24/03/14 12:01pm
The latter was the case in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational event when US Masters champ Adam Scott practically shot the lights out (the lighting in the media centre briefly failed shortly after his interview!) with a 62 that wasn't so much startling as downright inhuman.
I was fortunate enough to walk all 18 holes in the wake of Scott, Justin Rose and American Patrick Reed on Thursday around the wonderful vista that is Arnie's Acres (more properly, the Bay Hill Club & Lodge), and the view just kept getting better, hole by hole.
Scott's round included two eagles, seven birdies, a bogey - and an osprey. No, that's not some obscure term I've dug up from golfing pre-history, but it was the sight on the monster 555-yard par-five sixth hole, where an adult osprey dived feet-first into the large lake, and emerged flapping and flailing with a good-sized fish.
For a natural embellishment to a glorious day in the Sunshine State, it took some beating. But beat it the world No.2 most certainly did, going on to complete a course record that he now shares with Andy Bean (in 1981) and Greg Norman (1984).
The fact he finished the day a full three shots ahead of Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and American John Merrick, who each turned in pretty sizzling 65s, was almost a footnote on a spectacular day's events, and the amiable Aussie then capped everything by revealing he had been suffering from the flu. If that was him with a sick-note, lord knows how low he would have gone if he had been healthy!
Having walked the walk, I thought it might also be instrumental to talk the talk - and reveal the anatomy of a record round in the company of Scott, Rose and Reed.
It all kicked off at exactly 8.23am on this expertly-manicured course set within the upscale Bay Hill community, where $1million will barely register as a down-payment on any home in the vicinity. It's wealthy, but not obnoxiously so; it's surprisingly friendly, and it knows how to stage central Florida's big annual golf shindig with some style.
Hence when the current holder of the fabled Augusta green jacket teed off, in the company of the reigning US Open champ and America's in-form sensation, there was already a gallery of several hundred keen-eyed fans ready to anticipate every shot.
And it got going straight away as Scott unleashed the broom-handle and drained a 19-footer at the opening hole (the par-four 10th) to make a clean break on his playing partners - and they hardly got a look-in thereafter. If it had been matchplay, Adam would have beaten BOTH of them five and three!
His par-five third hole featured a three-iron into a greenside bunker and a recovery to within four feet for birdie No.2, which was matched by both his partners, Reed breaking his duck to move one-under and Rose easing back to par after a bunkered bogey at the second.
A rare prile of pars followed, and then Scott was off to the races, rapping in a no-doubt 25-footer and then an even better putt from fully 28ft to be four under after six holes, while Reed idled his wheels at one-under and Rose slipped up with a poor putt that dropped him one over.
Out of sight
Suddenly, he was all but out of sight as a bolt from his driver was followed by a sweet seven-iron and capped by a monster 38-foot putt for eagle that had him at an astonishing six-under. True, Reed managed a birdie, but his two-under and Rose's one-over were starting to look like the also-rans they truly were on this particular race day.
There were gasps from the gallery when the Aussie missed another birdie from 15ft at the next, as we were starting to think if he could see the hole with his putter, he could put it there with the proverbial blindfold on.
Scott's only real mishap of the day came at the 458-yard, par four 18th (his ninth hole), where he went left off the tee, stayed in the rough to the green and just failed with a 27-footer that would have saved par. Reed stayed at two under while Rose scrambled back to par, and the trio set out on the front nine.
The American was the only one to spark within the next two holes, sending an immaculate iron at the par-three second (or 11th) to just five feet from the cup and rattling in the birdie to go three under and just two behind the red-hot Aussie. But that was as good as it got for the 23-year-old Reed as he proceeded to par the final seven holes. And Scott didn't.
Adam needed just three tidy shots at the par-four third (or 12th) to jump back to six-under and then produced the dagger of the round from the next tee on the 561-yard, par-five fourth (13th). His drive boomed a full 296 yards and a three-wood took him within 25 feet of the target. Another swish of the magic broom and, hey presto, another eagle and it's eight-under-par.
Reed and Rose could only look on with the most envious eyes as Scott was clearly touched with the full Masters-style graces on this day, and he proved it unequivocally as he promptly birdied the next two holes, from seven and 13ft respectively.
The osprey also made its appearance - much to the delight of my photographer pal Nigel Worrall, who had just watched Bubba Watson chalk up a truly horrid 11 by hitting THREE tee shots into the water from whence our feathered friend grabbed his lunch - and Rose added a birdie of his own to put the trio at a combined 14 under.
By contrast, 2012 Masters champ Watson was a mere twenty-three shots adrift, before going on to withdraw following his 83 citing "allergy issues." Sheer embarrassment might be more like it.
With the course record now firmly in his grip, Scott stunned the rapidly-expanding gallery by -gasp! - missing a mere six-footer that would have put him in sight of sole possession of the course record and a potential 61.
Never mind, one wag in the gallery had a better answer, calling across to Justin, the group's standard bearer showing the scores, and asking: "Is it heavy to carry that scoreboard with such a big number on it!"
With the finish line in sight, and the media closing in on The Story of the Week - everyone knowing a 62 would be a major mark in the record books - there was a slight wobble as Scott crashed his driver into the right rough and briefly looked like he might be struggling for par at the closing hole.
But a superlative recovery shot dropped him just 19 yards from the hole, and two putts from there was a foregone conclusion. He promptly hopped off to the Scorer's Hut to sign for the best round in tournament history (the 62s by Bean and Norman were both when the course par was 71, hence this was the first 10-under benchmark), and the media were left to marvel at a round from the rarefied atmosphere, a pure golfing symphony.
Of course, Scott then added to his legend by revealing he was "A bit crook," as they used to say Down Under. He had started with flu-like symptoms and felt pretty ragged, apparently. But it never once showed on the course, and his round was a genuine thing of beauty.
We'll all be back for more in the second round, but it's unlikely we'll see another performance like that in a while.
And it was all achieved two days after the sudden pull-out of the world No.1, which had threatened to take much of the gloss off Arnie's highly polished event. Not a bit of it. Tiger who?