Date: November 14, 2013
Author: Martin Blake /

Scott still soaring at Royal

It was a morning for the diehards only at Royal Melbourne as Australia&aposs first and only US Masters champion, Adam Scott, teed off in the Talisker Australian Masters, the paler but still significant Australian version played for a gold jacket. A hundred or so braved the Antarctic winds that whipped across the course from the south, a breeze that boasted of Carnoustie rather than Cheltenham. But there they were in their beanies and coats and golfing waterproofs, paying homage to the Australian game&aposs new Pied Piper as he pumped his driver down the 11th hole, his first of the day, at 8am. There was Ricky Ponting, the former cricket captain and golfing tragic, who has joined Royal Melbourne and pushed his handicap down to scratch, and footballers like Melbourne&aposs Mitch Clark and Chris Dawes, and Adelaide&aposs Taylor Walker. The course was damp and offered no run after two days of rain, yet the greens were magnificent pieces of art, so true that you could lay down and sleep on them should you choose to. Or eat your dinner from them. RM is famous for its greens, and they are no myth, going by what the staff have presented this week. Scott did not disappoint his followers, carding a four-under-par 67 that amounted to one withering burst of four consecutive birdies in the middle of his round. The rest of the way, he scrambled and fought, so that by the time he signed his card he was close to the lead. Starting off 11 (the organisers have chosen it as the second teeing ground because the 10th is too far from the clubhouse), he immediately missed a good opportunity for birdie. Then at 13, he hit a beautiful short iron close at the par-four and moved into red figures. But he was annoyed with himself when he could not get up and down from beside the green at the par-five 15th, having been pin-high for two and only needing an iron to do so. Scott&aposs audible growl at himself when he flared his approach right and into sand at the 18th indicated that he was struggling. But he got up and down for par from the bunker, walked to the first tee and regathered himself. Now he would turn on the afterburners. The composite course&aposs first hole is a driveable par-four and with a tail-wind today, Scott bombed his tee shot into a greenside bunker and got it up and down for birdie. Then at the par-five second he made a wonderful, scrambling birdie after driving into the mulga and needing to hit a left-handed second shot to advance his ball down the fairway. At the wonderful par-three third he rolled in his birdie putt from just less than two metres, down the treacherous hill, and then when he ripped a short iron close at the fourth hole, making another birdie, he had the outright lead. Now the crowd seemed to grow exponentially and at five-under, a really low number beckoned. But Scott&aposs adrenaline slowed. After he punched a short iron to within two metres at the iconic par-three fifth, he missed the opportunity and again at the sixth, he pulled a short birdie putt left of the hole. It would not turn out to be a stellar day; merely a handy start. At the par-four eighth he came up short of the green and failed to get up and down, his first and only bogey of the day, and by the time he two-putted for par at his last hole, the 10th, and he signed for 67. Later he rued his misses at the sixth, the 11th, and his failure to capitalise from the greenside at the 15th. But with the winds up and the fairways damp and not running, the course was not available for ravaging. Scott went straight to the driving range, though not out of annoyance, rather because he feels he has not practised enough. “I left a couple out there but my game&aposs in good shape,&apos&apos he said. “Four rounds like that might go a long way this week.&apos&apos Scott is carrying a heavy burden as the marquee man, but he said he was managing his commitments in a stretch of four consecutive tournaments, an unusually heavy load for a player who has cut back the amount he plays in the past three years. “I always tell people &aposslap me if I&aposm not fresh for a golf tournament, because I play so little&apos.&apos&apos