Around 9.30am today, Emirates Australian Open officials wiped the perspiration from their brows, and it wasn’t because of the heat.
No, it was an eagle quite superbly crafted by world No 3 Adam Scott on the 459-metre par five 14 – his fifth hole for the day around The Australian GC’s Kensington layout – that did the trick as, even though it was early days, they no longer had to sweat on Scott making the cut.
Last night the pessimists were fearing Scott after his out-of-sorts three over par 74 in the opening round, and thus totally eliminate the prospect of a Sunday afternoon showdown with world No 1 for a second year in a row.
Scott is a proud, yet modest champion golfer, and he wasn’t going to let himself down for a second day in a row.
He went out on those first nine holes – the back nine – in four under par, but for the first four of those nine holes, he appeared to be just a little off song in scrambling to par each of the four holes.
Then, the magic we’ve become accustomed to these past few years that took him the world No 1 ranking until McIlroy shoved him off the pedestal with his glorious play in 2014 including the back-to-back majors (the British Open and PGA) returned.
Scott’s five iron second shot in the 14th finished just three metres from the pin and he smile was enough to split the green as the walked up, chatting with his caddie Mike Kerry, to line up the eagle putt.
The gallery, ever growing as the morning wore on, erupted in vocal applause rather than the polite claps that of those first four holes.
More came at the 16th where Scott holed a five-metre putt for birdie and then yet another went on the card at the par five 18th where Scott pitched to three metres.
Just one birdie came on his second nine – the far tougher front nine of the course – when he rolled a six-metre putt in from just off the green.
And, so it was a five-under par 66 and, well, a course record as it was the low score so far recorded on this second Jack Nicklaus creation of The Australian layout.
“We’ll see how long that lasts,” Scott said with that smile we’ve become accustomed to. “We had a good morning for it this morning just for the sake of getting myself back in the tournament. I guess it’s fun to shoot a course record. I’m pretty sure it won’t hold up for the rest of the week but it feels good anyway.”
Yes, those conditions this morning were nigh on perfect and so very different from the blustery stuff mixed misty rain served up by nature the previous morning.
“Momentum is a big thing. Today I got off to a bad start – the wind was tricky. I didn’t scrambled well in the round yesterday when I had to (and) it was slipping away from me.
“Today I didn’t start much better to be honest. I was scrambling but I scrambled well and all of a sudden I hit a couple of good shots down 14 and made an eagle.
“Momentum is on your side then. It’s an incredible different feeling to being two under than two over. I tried to keep that rolling today and I needed to as it was the only chance I had to be in touch with the lead.”
Last night Scott headed straight to the practice range after his round.
Was it to sort something with his swing – or more to sort his head?
“Yes, probably more my mind. I hit three bad drivers early yesterday and that kind of threw me. It was more just too go there and realise I’m swinging good, and let a lot of frustration out and be reassured that everything is in good shape.
“I’m going to have to be working hard to close the gap of whatever the lead will be tonight and hopefully there are enough holes to do that,” Scott replied.
Young American Jordan Spieth, who was paired with Scott and last week’s Australian Masters Champion Nick Cullen, was in no doubt that Scott would be with us this weekend, and spoke glowing of Scott in his interview after the opening round.
“I’ve played a lot of golf with him and obviously have seen what’s he’s capable of doing and fully expect that to happen the next three days,” he said.
“Still, it’s really cool to watch (well) not to watch when you know he’s having a day like that. A great champion as Adam is, to see how positive he remains on each shot when I know that I wouldn’t have handled it the same way he did – that’s part of what I need to learn going forward.
“He didn’t have his best stuff but he hung in there, stayed positive and had a great attitude. He was still smiling and having fun, obviously competing but finding a nice fine line between the two I guess. So I expect him to be back and go low tomorrow and the weekend,” Spieth said.
Asked today about Spieth confidence in him fighting back, Scott said: “The big thing is belief in you ability to peg it back and not completely losing your head after nine holes yesterday (when he was five over) and shooting six or seven over.
“Sometimes you can say your game is in good shape and it actually is even though the score doesn’t reflect that and I feel like I am playing well. Staying patient and staying calm certainly is a big thing in my game … I certainly don’t want to panic at that point when I’m five over after nine,” he said.
It was Spieth who was at the top of the pile when the morning wave was done, at three under with rounds of 67-72 but Scott was just one behind with his 74-66.
Their day was done, and it was a matter of relaxing for the remainder of the day to see what the afternoon players headed, of course, by McIlroy had to offer.