Course record hands Scott lead

Adam Scott tied the Bay Hill course record to claim a three-shot lead after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The Australian was one of the early starters in Thursday’s first round in Florida, and wasted little time in taking control of the contest, eventually carding a scintillating 10-under-par 62 to take his place firmly atop the leaderboard.

Starting on the back nine, Scott made four birdies and an eagle in his first seven holes.

A bogey at nine dropped him back down to five-under, but he would prove just as effective after the turn, adding another three birdies and eagle to tie the course record and open up a four-stroke cushion.

Highlights of his round included a 25-footer for birdie on the 14th and a 35-footer for eagle at the par-five 16th.

“I made a lot of putts today, and a lot of putts from considerable length,” Scott said after his round.

“I hit a lot of nice shots, too, but it wasn’t like I was hitting it four feet. I had a round like this in Australia at the end of last year – in the first six holes, I didn’t hit it outside five feet. There’s a lot of different ways to get the ball in the hole.

“But it’s good for the confidence. It’s what I wanted. I sat in here yesterday and said I’d like to make some birdies and build the confidence. And today is a good start to that.”

In second place on seven-under are John Merrick and Ryo Ishikawa, who both carded 65s at Bay Hill on the day.

Merrick had the opportunity to claim second place on his own, but a late bogey saw him drop back from his eight-under-par score.

Both players were already 10 shots behind by the time they teed off on Thursday.

“That took the pressure off,” Merrick admitted after his round.

“You’re already 10 shots behind, so it’s not like you’re protecting anything. But this isn’t the Bay Hill I remember. I don’t usually play golf in Florida without 20 mph wind.”

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano carded his best score of the year to finish the first round in fourth place after a 66, while Brandt Snedeker, Francesco Molinari, Jason Kokrak, Jamie Donaldson, Morgan Hoffmann and Paul Casey had to settle for five-under 67s.

Should Scott, currently the world number two, win this week, he would overtake Woods at the top of the world rankings by the time the Masters started – provided neither man plays again prior to that time.

On Wednesday, Scott said of his quest to become the world number one: “There was some fun in going to Doral and having a chance to win and maybe go to number one and that’s a huge motivator. It didn’t really work out and I don’t know how many of those chances I’ll get.

“So if I get another chance I’m going to be doing my best to take it because the well might dry up, and I might never have this opportunity again.”