LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND // After stumbling badly in the opening rounds at the year's first two majors, Adam Scott took his caddie's advice and played Thursday's first round of the British Open as if it was his last.
The move paid off for the 31-year-old Australian, who nearly matched the all-time low round in major championship history before settling for a six-under par 64 at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
"That was my goal here, really, starting the week was to play like it was Sunday and there was no tomorrow," Scott said. "I did a good job of that and now I've got my work cut out for me the next couple of days to keep myself in a similar kind of position."
His caddie Steve Williams, the former bagman for Tiger Woods, advised Scott to put more pressure on himself to perform well early after his first rounds of 76 at last month's US Open and 75 at the Masters.
"We talked about that mindset because I was playing well at all the majors this year, but the first round I'm shooting myself in the foot a little bit and making it too much work to get back in it," Scott said. "He wanted me to go to that first tee like it was the 72nd hole and you have three to win. And really switch yourself on from the first hole. That was a good little trigger he kind of helped out with."
It is an attitude that had helped Woods win 74 career PGA events, eight shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, and put him within four major titles of the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.
"I was playing so well going into the US Open and all of a sudden I was seven over through 15 holes and you can't pick up that many shots in a major," Scott said.
"So to focus and play the first hole at the tournament like it's the 72nd was my mindset on the first tee, really switch on right from the first tee and not just see how it goes for the first few holes.
"That was really the difference. I didn't hit that good of shots but I was really focused on what I was doing the first few holes."
Scott, still seeking his first major win, took a bogey at the third but responded with a birdie on the next hole and back-to-back birdies at the sixth and par-5 seventh, then made three birdies in a row starting at the par-5 11th.
Two more in a row at 15 and 16 put Scott level with the low round in majors golf history, but a poor tee shot into the rough at 18 led to a bogey.
"It's one of those things that you don't want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score," he said.
Scott matched the low round fired in 11 Opens at Royal Lytham, a third-round 64 by Tom Lehman on his way to victory in 1996.
And he credited breaking out of the cruise control he has put himself into at prior majors to stay calm — "maybe too conservative and almost too patient".
"The little gee ups are good for me. I like that," Scott said. "I can feed off it because I can cruise a little bit too much when I'm on the golf course, and I can be very patient, which is a good thing at times but it's a good thing to get me going right from the start and get me alert."
That might get Scott something else he wants — a major title.
"That's what I've dreamt of as a kid," Scott said.
"I still feel like I've got a lot to play for and a lot to achieve. But I would say I haven't achieved what I wanted until I win a major or more."
Woods, meanwhile, took only four holes to get his name at the top of the leader board - and even though it did not stay there he gave himself high marks for his day's work.
Woods, who has not added to his 14 majors or three Claret Jugs in four years, covered the outward half in just 30 strokes, only two off the championship record.
The second nine was a different story - eight pars and a bogey compared to five pars and four birdies - but that is as much a reflection on the difficulty of the test at Lytham as his own play.
"I hit the ball well all day. I was just lacking a little bit of pace on the greens coming home," said Woods, who has a chance to return to world No 1 this weekend after slumping all the way to 58th last November.
He opened with a 14-foot birdie putt, holed from even farther away at the fourth and sixth, and then chipped dead on the next.
The one dropped shot came at the 462-yard 15th - and threatened to be even worse when he moved his ball from deep rough into even nastier stuff.
From there, however, Woods muscled the ball on to the green and escaped with a five.
"It was pretty soft, the wind wasn't blowing and we're backing golf balls up," he said.
"The first hole is a perfect indication. I hit a five-iron straight at it and it rolled out eight feet. I can't remember the last time it does that on a links golf course.
"I felt like I had pretty good control. I was shaping the golf ball both ways - sometimes I rode the wind, sometimes I held it against it. I had certain sections I wanted to put the ball in, and I did that all day. I'm very pleased with what I did. I just needed to hit the putts a little bit harder - these greens are not quick."
Woods was paired with European stars Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia and easily outplayed them. Garcia shot a 72 that included a double bogey on the third and Rose a 74.
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