ORLANDO, Fla. – Adam Scott said he thought about not playing Thursday morning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He had been suffering from mild flu symptoms for a couple of days. He tried to sleep Wednesday night but was up every hour. He said he had difficulty breathing. He had a fever and the sweats. His glands felt swollen, his nose congested.
“I wasn’t really up for it this morning,” he said.
And so the reigning Masters champion went out reluctantly at Bay Hill and somehow made two eagles and seven birdies, tying the course record of 10-under 62. He did so by holing putts from hither and yon, 175 feet worth. They dropped in from all over – five times from at least 19 feet, eight from 8 feet or longer.
“It was one of those days the hole looked like a bucket,” the No. 2-ranked player in the world said after taking only 23 putts.
It also was a day that served Chapter 6,109 of the Beware the Sick Golfer series. This is an interesting phenomenon, fodder for mental coaches and hypnotists. One notion is that when a golfer’s conscious mind is clogged with an illness, he can play more unconsciously.
Whatever, Scott buys in, calling the BTSG a “true adage.” He said a sickness like his can take your mind off expectations and slow you down in a positive way.
“I went out there just trying to get the ball around,” said Scott, playing at Bay Hill for the first time since 2009. “I’ve played a lot like this, and sometimes it works in your favor because you have lower expectations.”
The round tied the course record held by Andy Bean (1981) and Scott’s idol, fellow Australian Greg Norman (1984). And it significantly improved his scoring average here. In 20 previous Bay Hill rounds, Scott had shot in the 60s just four times, with a best of 67, in 2003 and ’05.
This one goes near the front of his scrapbook, in the section about low rounds. He has closed with 61 to win in Qatar and blitzed the Memorial Tournament field one day at Muirfield Village.
“This would be right there in the mix,” Scott said.
Scott’s feat also was a best-case scenario for a tournament that lacks Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy. With Scott in full bloom if not good health, they were out of mind.
It helped some that Steve Williams carries his bag. Williams caddied in six of Woods’ record eight victories here, experience not lost on Scott. “Steve has seen a lot of good golf here, and that was an advantage to me,” he said.
As he played, his green jacket hung in his room. He has taken the Masters coat with him to every tournament but two, he said. Sometimes he wears it to friends’ houses.
During his round, a reporter asked some women in the gallery what they thought of the affable Scott. As you might imagine, they were complimentary, leading the scribe to ask if being Adam Scott is as good as it seems.
“I can’t complain,” he said, smiling. “I’m playing golf for a living. That’s a good start. I’m having a good run and trying to enjoy the opportunities.”
The good run is linked to the skillful way he operates a long putter that no longer will be conforming come 2016. Thursday, he was so good on the greens, he was 6 under par through seven holes. Starting on the back, he opened with a 19-footer for birdie at 10. Birdies from 26 and 28 feet at Nos. 14-15 (the latter from off the green) were followed immediately by a 36-footer for eagle 3. He made another eagle, from 19 feet, at the par-5 fourth.
Afterward, he set his afternoon sights on drinking water and getting rest.
“I’m going to try to feel a little more sprightly,” Scott said, smiling.