Nerves hit him hard on the first tee but by the time Adam Scott nailed a birdie putt on the final hole of his opening round at the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast, the Masters champion was flying high.
Scott put on a near-flawless display of driving in Thursday’s first day at Royal Pines, scoring a bogey-free six-under 65 to sit tied for second alongside Australian journeymen Matthew Ballard and David McKenzie.
The trio are two shots behind American young gun Rickie Fowler after the 24-year-old’s sizzling morning round of 63 was unmatched by the field.
Scott revealed he’d had to settle himself after the pressure of his long-awaited homecoming following April’s historic win at Augusta National hit him at the first tee.
The world number two made par on his first five holes before bagging three birdies in as many holes to kickstart his tournament.
An eagle putt on the par-five 12th narrowly missed but it was a two-metre putt on the 18th in front of his adoring home fans which drew the day’s biggest cheer to complete Scott’s round.
“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.”
It could have been easy for Scott to find himself distracted as easily the largest gallery of the day followed his every move.
But the 33-year-old said dealing with adulation and accolades is something he’s just had to learn to cope with since his hoodoo-busting major win.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I’ve enjoyed playing at home,” he said.
“It was fun today.
“No matter how little pressure I put on myself I still want to play well and especially in front of a lot of friends and family out there and everyone who’s come out to watch. They don’t want to see my play poorly.
“I want the people to enjoy it but I’ve still got to remain focused and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
Scott’s battle with exciting Californian Fowler looms as a promoter’s dream given the pair are the two highest-ranked players in the field.
The 24-year-old made eight birdies in his bogey-free round, including six on his back nine as he took a liking to the hospitable nature of the flat Royal Pines resort layout.
Although Fowler, who only turned pro in 2009, already has one US PGA Tour win to his name, he’s still seen as a prospect more than a contender in the golfing world.
Known more for his garish outfits and backward baseball caps, Fowler said emulating Scott’s journey from unfulfilled talent into the game’s most consistent performer is his aim.
“He’s been playing pretty flawless when it comes down to it,” Fowler said.
“You do make mistakes, it’s going to happen. You can’t go out and play 72 perfect holes but I want to go out and manage my game a little bit better and put myself in positions on Sunday at majors.
“This would be a great start here to get things going in the right direction.”