- Open Championship
Scott makes the most of opening 'walk in the park'Alex Dimond at Royal Lytham & St Annes July 19, 2012
Adam Scott has a couple of illustrious connections to the Open Championship.
Back in 1993, when the promising all-round sportsman was just turning 13, Scott watched enraptured as Greg Norman - his idol - claimed his second Claret Jug after a tense final round at Royal St George's. It was to prove a formative moment.
"I could probably tell you every shot he hit that Sunday," Scott said on Thursday, after taking the early lead in the 2012 Open after a six-under par first round of 64. "To see him win that one really spurred me on … because it was about that time I was stopping playing other sports and really wanted to be a golfer."
Prior to that, as a 10-year-old, Scott had caddied for a professional for the first time. It was not any old pro he had caddied for, however - it was Peter Thomson, one of the greatest Open players of all time.
Thomson, one of the forefathers of Australian golf, hoisted the Claret Jug five times in his career - winning it three times on the spin between 1954 and 1956 - as he dominated the tournament for a period in the 1950s like no-one, bar the possible exception of Tom Watson, really has since. Scott still talks to Thomson, who is now 82, when he can.
"I speak to Peter when we cross paths," Scott said. "He's had a lot of advice for me over the years. He always encourages me in his own way."
Scott has had a successful professional career to date - "I still feel like I've got a lot to achieve, but I've won tournaments - and most guys like to judge their success on winning" - but a major championship remains elusive. But after Thursday's opening round of 64 - the joint second-best opening round in the tournament's history, behind Rory McIlroy's 63 in 2010 - he suddenly has a great chance to change his fortunes.
Back in 1996, an American named Tom Lehman also opened with a round of 64 at Royal Lytham & St Annes - and went on to win the tournament. With the weather dying down after causing difficulties earlier in the week, conditions were crying out for players to take advantage.
"It was just a nice walk in the park today, it was not what we've experienced in the practice rounds," Scott noted. "Now I've got my work cut out for me the next couple of days to keep myself in a similar kind of position."
Just as Norman and Thomson helped steer his development as a youngster, however, Scott now has plenty of help on hand to keep him moving forward in the biggest tournaments. A switch to the belly putter last year has turned him from a wasteful player on the greens into one of the best putters on tour, while his bag-man Steve Williams - caddie for all three of Tiger Woods' Open victories - has really helped focus his mind this week.
Scott opened with a round of 75 at the Masters earlier this year, and then a 76 at the US Open. If both rounds had been six and two shots better respectively, we could be looking at a player still chasing the grand slam. Getting off to a better start on the Fylde coast - with his cousins from Freckleton, five miles down the road, watching on - was something Williams had spoken to him about.
"We talked about that mindset because I was playing well at all the majors this year, but the first round I'm shooting myself in the foot a little bit and making it too much work to get back in it," Scott acknowledged. "I can be very patient, which is a good thing at times. But it's also a good thing to get me going right from the start and get me alert."
Other players did not manage to get a good first round under their belt - Lee Westwood (+3) in particular should be rueing his profligacy - but most did. Big names including Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els all reached three-under for the tournament in solid opening rounds, while Paul Lawrie and Zach Johnson comfortably slipped in behind Scott at five-under.
The Australian, though, is top of the pile from the early finishers - having given himself the most to work with if the weather suddenly changes once more.
"It's very good. Very, very good," recently-crowned Irish Open champion Jamie Donaldson (-2) said of Scott's round. "You know, if you do hit a lot of fairways out here, you can shoot a decent number.
"On a day like today, this is as easy as this course can play - and it's still difficult."
The Claret Jug would be a welcome birthday present for Scott, who turned 32 on Monday. What do you get the golfer who has everything? His family obviously couldn't find an answer - they bought him a golf bag.
"It was a very nice golf bag, though, I have to say," Scott joked, but Thursday's opening round was even nicer.
Scott grew up idolising Norman and Thomson. After a deeply impressive opening round, he has given himself a fine chance of joining their illustrious club.
Except if he does, of course, he'll also have a nicer golf bag.