Rickie Fowler had six birdies over his last eight holes en route to an 8-under-par 63 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Australian PGA.
The American golfer’s round took some of the attention from Adam Scott’s first tournament back in Australia as U.S. Masters champion. Scott, however, was sitting only two strokes back following a 65 after playing in the afternoon groups affected by gusty winds at Royal Pines which made low scoring more difficult.
The 33-year-old Scott was level with fellow Australians Matthew Ballard and David McKenzie.
Nathan Green shot 66 and was alone in fifth spot, a stroke better than Australian compatriot Jason Norris and South Korea’s Kwon Sung-yeol, who shot 67s and were equal sixth. Richard Lee of Canada was in a large group tied for eighth with 68s.
Fowler started at the 10th and opened with five pars before making birdie on two of the next four holes before the turn.
”It was a good solid start,” Fowler said. ”A little bit slow on my front nine, but I just stayed patient and finally got a few things to go, made a couple of good up and downs.”
Fowler said although the conditions were conducive to good scoring on Thursday morning, the situation could easily change. And it did.
”If the wind picks up this afternoon, like it started to pick up the last few holes, the course will dry out a bit and they’ll play a little bit tougher, "Fowler said. ”So tomorrow afternoon it’s going to be a little bit different course than I saw this morning.”
Scott is making his first tournament appearance back home since winning the U.S. Masters in April, the first Australian to do so.
He made par on his first five holes before notching three consecutive birdies.
An attempted eagle putt on the par-5 12th narrowly missed, but it was an eight-foot putt on the 18th for birdie that again got the home fans cheering.
”A little shaky start, scrambling, that settled me down into competition mode,” Scott said. ”Pleased to get that out of the way and put a good one on the board. Setting myself up for hopefully what’s a good weekend.”