Adam Scott may not be able to topple Tiger Woods from the No. 1 ranking in golf this week, but a win at Bay Hill would lift the reigning Masters champ to within chipping distance of his childhood goal.
Scott resumed his race to the top with a stellar front nine in Thursday’s opening round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. But with Woods and fourth-ranked Jason Day on the bench with injuries and diluting the potency of the field, the world No. 2 could win on Sunday and still be just back of the absent frontrunner, according to AAP.
The Official World Golf Ranking methodology grades each event according to the status of those in attendance. Even with Woods nursing his bad back, had Day, still on the DL with a thumb malady, been able to start this week, a win by Scott probably would have knocked Tiger off his perch.
Unless Woods were to add an event to his schedule between now and Augusta, which is highly unlikely given his history and apparent need to rest his back, a Scott finish ahead of Tiger at the Masters should put the 33-year-old Australian over the top. With the promised land in sight before the Nos. 1 and 2 teed it up at Doral two weeks ago, Scott put up a lackluster four rounds that landed him in a tie with Woods for 25th.
The disappointing outcome at the WGC-Cadillac Championship did not deter Scott from his aim; if anything, it inspired him to get the job done sooner rather than later.
"There was some fun in going to Doral and having a chance to win and maybe go to No. 1 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," Scott told reporters on Wednesday ahead of the last tourney on his calendar before his title defense at Augusta. "If that’s the case this week, 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."
In his seventh stint at Bay Hill, Scott got off to a blazing start, with four birdies and an eagle in his first seven holes.
Scott dropped a shot on the par-4 18th (his ninth hole of the day) to make the turn at 5-under 31 but got it back and then some with another birdie on No. 3 and his second eagle of the day on the par-4 fourth -- which was all part of the pre-Masters plan.
"I'm expecting to put myself in the mix and try to get myself into some pretty good form heading into the next month," Scott said. "I'm coming here to make a few birdies and kind of get the confidence up a little bit ... I'd like to see my game work into a bit of shape and then I think it will be exciting for me going [to Augusta] feeling like I'm playing pretty good."
Update: Scott finished with a 10-under round of 62, matching the course record at Bay Hill and taking an early four-shot lead over the rest of the field. That's a not a bad place to be:
Here's his final card from the blistering opening 18 in Orlando: