SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - Adam Scott will be making the headlines for all the right reasons after the Australian produced a spectacular finish to earn a share of the first-round lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament on Thursday.
A year ago, Scott found himself unwillingly involved in an uncomfortable situation when his caddie Steve Williams made a derogatory remark about his former employer, Tiger Woods, at a function in Shanghai prior to the third round.
Back in China for the final World Golf Championship event of the season, the 32-year-old let his clubs do the talking when he fired a seven-under 65 to join South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen at the top of the leaderboard.
Earlier in the day, American Ryder Cup players Phil Mickleson and Bubba Watson made positive starts to the $7 million tournament when the both shot rounds of 66 along with Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Shane Lowry of Ireland.
The 2010 Open Championship winner Oosthuizen, starting his round from the 10th, was the first to overtake the quartet by making late birdies at the par-five seventh and ninth but Scott’s finish over the same stretch was even more eye-catching.
At the seventh, his two-iron approach reached the fringe of the green and he two-putted for birdie, and he picked up another on the par-three eighth when his tee shot landed inside one foot of the pin.
He utilized his trusty two-iron to maximum effect again at the ninth, firing his approach to within 12 feet before sinking the eagle putt to complete his round in style with an inward 31.
“I had a really good start,” Scott, who has been relaxing at home in Australia since the end of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, told reporters.
”And a fast finish. I hit a lot of good shots and over the last couple of holes made the most of them.
“There are five par-fives on this set-up which are good for my game. The plan is to take advantage of them and hopefully hang on to the leaders this week.”
Using a two-iron twice late in the round bucked the modern trend among touring professionals of using hybrid irons for long-range approach shots but Scott denied he had turned the golf equipment clock back 20 years.
“I have used hybrids before but my two-iron is not like the blades they used in the 1980s,” he added. “It has a little bit more meat in the head and is a little more user friendly.”
The presence of Mickleson, Watson and several leading Americans in the 78-strong field offers players from that part of the world good ranking points as well as lucrative rewards at a time when their own Tour is winding down for the winter.
However, they and many others on the course did have the U.S. on their minds, donning red, white and blue ribbons in their caps as a tribute to the victims of Hurricane Sandy that lashed the Atlantic region of the country this week.
Hanson, the winner of the BMW Masters in Shanghai last week, can leapfrog world number one Rory McIlroy in the European Tour Race to Dubai standings should he repeat that triumph on Sunday with the Northern Irishman taking a week off.
Editing by John O'Brien