(Reuters) - Masters champion Adam Scott climbed out of his sick bed and into a three-shot lead after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.
Scott felt lousy all night, but his decision to play proved a good one as he carded a majestic 10-under-par 62 that tied the course record at Bay Hill.
“I was up with the doctors this morning, a bit fluey and pretty lethargic,” he told Golf Channel. “I think getting out in the fresh air was good for me and moving around a little bit rather than feeling sorry for myself in bed.”
Nobody came close to matching Scott, with young Japanese standout Ryo Ishikawa and American John Merrick best of the rest, shooting 65 in the afternoon.
World number two Scott is regarded by many as the best driver in the game and he took advantage of his length and accuracy off the tee to demolish the four par-fives, which he negotiated in six under en route to the first 62 at Bay Hill since his boyhood idol Greg Norman three decades ago.
It was a career low round on the PGA Tour for Scott, though he shot 61 at the 2008 Qatar Masters on the European Tour.
The Australian also wielded his long putter like a magic wand in his final tournament before he defends his green jacket at the April 10-13 Masters, needing just 23 putts as he mixed two eagles with seven birdies and a bogey in ideal morning conditions.
“I‘m really thrilled with the start today,” Scott, making his first Bay Hill start since 2009, told reporters.
”It’s maybe a little surprising. I don’t know where it came from but the putter certainly got hot today. Today was just one of those days where the hole was like a bucket.
“I think the golf course sets up well for me generally and I wanted to use it to my advantage if I could and so far it’s working.”
Scott is playing just his third tournament since mid-January. He has reduced his tournament schedule over the past couple of years in order to prepare for the majors in peace and quiet.
With a win on Sunday, the 33-year-old from Adelaide, South Australia, can move to within a whisker of taking the world number one ranking from Tiger Woods, the eight-time Bay Hill champion who is not defending due to back spasms.
“There’s no better motivation for me this week than to win this tournament and shake Arnold’s hand and be number one in the world,” Scott continued. “It’s all there for me to take. I had it rolling today but I can’t get cocky.”
Ishikawa, meanwhile, finished strongly with five birdies and a bogey in his final seven holes.
“The wind is tricky so it’s not easy but it was a very comfortable round for me,” said the 22-year-old, who is finally finding his feet on the PGA Tour after already winning 10 times in Japan, where he once shot a 58.
It was not such a good day for 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson. Citing allergies, he withdrew after an 11-over-par 83 that included an 11 at the par-five sixth, where he drove three balls into the water.
It was, however, far from the worst score ever recorded at that hole. John Daly ran up 18 strokes there in 1998.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue