Golf Australia

THE PLAYERS: Sawgrass humbles Scott

Adam Scott stood on the 17th tee at Sawgrass today with the lead in the Players Championship.

Little more than 20 minutes on, he was tied-18th and likely feeling like he had wasted one of the best rounds of his career.

The Australian suffered a brutal lesson in Florida golf, taking a double bogey after spinning his tee shot back into the water at the famous island green at the 17th, then pulling his second shot at the par-four 18th from deep rough into the lake that skirts the left side of the fairway.

Another double bogey left him with a two-under par 70 that equals the low round by his countrymen in the tournament, but could have been so much better. Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley also began with 70s, and they are just three shots from the lead held by American William McGirt and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, who shot 67.

Scott, who won this tournament to announce himself to the golfing world in 2004, had a brilliant first phase of the day, making birdies at the third, seventh, ninth, 11th, 14th and 15th to reach six-under and hit the top of the leaderboard. To that point, he had not suffered a single bogey all day and his putter was white-hot, with birdie putts roleld in from off the green at the 14th, from four metres at the 15th and three metres at the 11th.

But Sawgrass is not that kind of course; there is too much water to negotiate without a drama somewhere or other, and Scott's time came at the most iconic part of the course. At 17, playing just 110 metres with the pin cut on the front, his wedge shot landed on the fringe right of the flag and spun back into the pond, meaning he had to negotiate another shot from the drop zone and over the water. He took a double bogey five and had lost the lead.

Not only that, he had to watch Sergio Garcia take a hole-in-one immediately after his own disasters at the course's most famous hole.

But worse was to come for Scott. At the 18th, his tee shot leaked way right and on to a kart path so that he was blocked out from finding the green. Trying to hit a big cut under the trees and up toward the green, his second shot went hard left and ran straight into the lake. A penalty drop and three shots later, he had a second, consecutive double bogey to sign for.

"It's hard to stay out of trouble all day,'' he told media after his round. "And it just depends where you want to get into trouble, obviously there's so much water here and there's no really easy recovery from the water. You know, I was left with some tricky pitches to try and save bogeys and I wasn't able to do it.''

Scott said the only shot he wanted back was his wedge at 17. "I played really good today, solid until the last couple of holes, but really I'm only disappointed with my wedge shot at 17. That's the one I'd like to have back, and dump it further up on the green, hit it a bit more solid. It might have been a different story going up 18.''

Day, the defending champion, began nicely on the back nine with three birdies, but gave some shots back on the front side, taking bogey at three of his last four holes. As for Baddeley, he would have had an even better day but for a triple bogey seven on the par-four seventh hole where he hit his tee shot into water.

American McGirt led the field after day one with a 67 that included two eagles on par-fives, before Hughes joined him on five-under late in the day.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson began his tournament with a one-under par 71.



70 Scott, Day, Baddeley

71 Smith

72 Pampling

73 Chalmers, Leishman

(Leader at 67)

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