Published June 30, 2011
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – When it comes to picking a PGA Tour schedule, Adam Scott will never be mistaken for Tiger Woods.
Few other players have been as predictable as Woods, at least when he's healthy. He sticks to the same schedule, and whatever minor changes he makes mostly result in something being dropped rather than added.
Scott, on the hand, has been all over the map.
A year ago, his West Coast Swing included Riviera and Pebble Beach. This year, Scott started at Kapalua and Honolulu, skipped all of California and didn't show up again until the end of February. One year he plays Tampa, the next year he plays West Palm Beach. He played in Connecticut one year and Texas the other.
So what was he doing at Aronimink, a golf course he has not played since he was 17 in the U.S. Junior Amateur?
"Sometimes, you just have to listen to your body," Scott said.
Even though he missed the cut in the U.S. Open, the Australian wanted another start before the next major and signed up for the AT&T National. Through one round, it looked like the right decision.
Scott holed a couple of 20-foot birdie putts early in his round, stuffed a 5-iron into 2 feet on a par 3 late in his round and finished with a pair of 15-footers — one for par, the last one for birdie — for a 4-under 66 to share the lead with Hunter Haas.
Not lost on Scott is that a year ago, he flew home to Australia after the Masters intending to take three weeks off. But he felt as though he were playing well, flew back across the Pacific to San Antonio and won the Texas Open.
Whether this turns out the same way remains to be seen.
The leaderboard after a day of gorgerous weather in the Philadelphia suburbs was tightly packed, without anyone going terribly low. Only 28 players in the 120-man field managed to break par at Aronimink.
"I hit a lot of fairways, which gave me an opportunity to hit the greens," Scott said. "They're already pretty firm and fast, so it's nice to be coming in from the short grass. And the few fairways I missed, I didn't get myself in too much trouble. It was kind of a stress-free round, which is a nice way to start."
The strategy sounds as though it belongs in a U.S. Open, and that's what it felt like — especially for those who were at Congressional two weeks ago for a U.S. Open that felt more like a regular PGA Tour event. Rory McIlroy turned in a command performance on a rain-softened golf course, though it was staggering to see 20 players under par, and incredible to see McIlroy set records for being 16-under 268 at the end of the week.
Robert Garrigus tied for third at the U.S. Open and was the low American. He opened with a 68 and found Aronimink to be an entirely different test.
"Anything under par today is great," Garrigus said. "They changed a few of the greens, a little more severe around the edges, so you can hit a pretty good shot and not get rewarded. But you know where you can miss it. You know where you can't hit and you know where you can. I don't think double digits is going to win this week."
Haas ran off four straight birdies on the back nine early in his round and he was the only player to get to 5 under until he got out of position of the tee at No. 7 and made his lone bogey.
When he played his practice round Tuesday, it was raining. Haas was surprised how quickly the course became firm, especially the greens. The reminder came from a scoreboard he saw just before he teed off, showing four players from the morning batch at no better than 67 — Joe Ogilvie, Jhonattan Vegas, Dean Wilson and Kyle Stanley.
"I said, 'Wow, I thought the scores would be a lot lower than that.' And that's just kind of where I put my mindset on the scoring and how to play this golf course," Haas said.
Pat Perez was in the group at 68 that included Vijay Singh, Rickie Fowler, Justin Leonard and Robert Garrigus. Perez didn't play the U.S. Open and felt as though he did on Thursday. Perhaps most telling is that Perez had no complaints about his score.
"This place is a month away from playing the U.S. Open," Perez said. "If they brought the fairways in, no joke this course is ready for a U.S. Open doing very little. Because if you hit it in the rough five or six times, you're dead."
And then there was Chris Riley, who opened with a 69. He received some criticism for not trying to qualify for the U.S. Open, and he said even some of his friends at home in San Diego asked him why he didn't qualify.
"I told them I was playing a U.S. Open in two weeks on this course," he said with a grin.
That was the consensus of most players, and details of some of the rounds added more credence. Ogilvie said the key to his round was a bogey on No. 10. From where he hit his tee shot, left into the deep grass and trees, he figured he would be lucky to make double bogey. Instead, he managed to get up-and-down from about 90 yards to limit the damage.
"I didn't do anything crazy on the greens. I just played them solid," Ogilvie said. "This course is set up like a U.S. Open. The fairways are a little bit wider, but it's definitely playing similar - except for this year's U.S. Open."