Marcus Fraser came within centimetres of the first bogey-free round of his PGA Tour career today, charging to the top of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Championship leaderboard.
Fraser poured in seven birdies to share the lead with American Scott Piercy on the rugged “Blue Monster” course at Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida.
The 37-year-old from Corowa on the Murray River was absolutely spectacular with his short-to-mid iron game, then used his putter just 26 times.
He led outright after birdie on the seventh, his 16th hole, but blocked a drive into rough and pulled his second into the water left of the par-five eighth and still barely missed his par.
It continues the great run of Fraser, who won on the European Tour in Malaysia two weeks ago before a bold showing in last week’s Perth International.
He made a quick start with opening birdies on 10 and 11, then a sensational save after driving in the water on the brutal 18th hole.
But it was a series of spectacular mid-irons midway round his closing nine that set up Fraser’s best shot at marking the Masters field with his world ranking approaching the critical top 50.
Another to continue his top form was Adam Scott, who backed up his win at Palm Beach last week with an opening 68.
The Queenslander was one of four players in a tie for fourth at four under, with Phil Mickelson outright third at five under.
Scott endured an up-and-down day, beginning with an eagle three on the 10th hole when he hit his second shot inside 2m, then taking consecutive eagles before a strong front nine. His day was completed with a 6.5m birdie putt at the ninth that hammered into the cup.
"You want the form to carry over, so I guess it has,'' Scott said.
"I played nicely today, I got off to a nice start, gave it straight back and then put my head back on and played some good golf.
"(It's) an ideal start. It keeps me on pace with everyone else out here and that's the goal the next few days, too.''
Scott, 35, said there was a key to using the good form that has emerged in his game.
"I think the big thing that mainly comes with a bit of experience is managing that expectation,'' he said.
"Of course you want to play well and take advantage, you are playing well and you want to take advantage, but you come to a course like Doral and it can bite you on one swing and you can have some trouble, just like I did last week (with a quadruple bogey on the 16th) at PGA National … water everywhere. You have to manage expectation, keep your head on and keep hitting good shots.''
World No. 2 Jason Day began with an even-par 72, one better than Victorian Marc Leishman who was in red numbers before finding water on the 18th hole.
Leishman took his shoes and socks off to play from the hazard, but the gamble didn’t play and his closing double-bogey dropped him to a 73.
Scott Hend and WGC debutant Jordan Zunic each fired a 75, while Steven Bowditch (81) and Nathan Holman (82) fell foul of the penal Doral course. Fortunately for that pair, it is a no-cut event.