Scott, Furyk share PGA lead


PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Remember when Adam Scott didn’t threaten much at a major? Hey, at least Greg Norman kept putting himself in position enough to have it all go wrong in the end.

Well, at 33, the fellow Australian has now become almost a fixture in these things. Right about the same time, coincidentally or whatever, he hooked up with caddie Steve Williams after Williams’ messy breakup from Tiger Woods. Or maybe Scott finally just became the kind of player most everyone always thought he could be. It happens.

Since then, he nearly won the 2011 Masters, should have won the 2012 British Open and did get his first major last April at Augusta National. OK, so he was pretty much a no-show at Merion. That happens, too. Last month, he tied for third in the British Open at Muirfield.

It’s gotten to where you basically expect him to be a factor. The final major of the year is proving to be no different.

Scott, whose best finish in a PGA Championship was a distant tie for third in 2006, opened with a 5-under-par 65 Thursday at windless, rain-softened Oak Hill Country Club that left him tied for the lead with Jim Furyk, one ahead of Canada’s David Hearn and Lee Westwood, who nearly won his first major at Muirfield.

Scott, who made five consecutive birdies starting at No. 4, played in the afternoon and had to wait out a 70-minute weather delay about midway through his round. After going in front by himself with another bird at 14, he did give a stroke back at 17 and needed to convert a 12-footer on the closing hole to save par.

Since 1998, only one man not named Tiger Woods has won more than one major in a season. That was Padraig Harrington, in 2008, when Woods was out with a leg injury. Tiger and Phil Mickelson, by the way, carded 71s, which, given the conditions, seemed more like 81s.

“When you get something going for you in a major, sometimes you have got to be not afraid to get out of your own way and let go,” said Scott, who played with Mickelson, the British winner, and U.S. Open champ Justin Rose. “It’s a good feeling when you can swing freely like that.

“The results are showing that I have got something figured out. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of preparing. I don’t know if you ever want to have it all figured out. I like what I’m doing, so I am just going to keep doing it.

“It’s just more about treating them a little bit differently and … peaking for four weeks a year.”

Furyk hasn’t hoisted a trophy since the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year award. This year, he missed the cut at The Players Championship, U.S. and British Opens. Yet the 43-year-old, 16-time winner came up with his low round of 2013 and his second lowest in any major. It almost made you forget he hasn’t had a top-10 in this one since 2002.

Nobody said it has to add up. Besides, Furyk tied for ninth in his previous two starts.

“This sport beats you up,” said Furyk, who had six birdies before finishing with a bogey at No. 9. “You’re going to have your good moments and your bad ones. I’ve always been very good at looking at the situation and figuring out how I could have made it better. You know, never really feeling sorry for myself. It gets me down for a while. And you get over it and start working hard on how you’re going to make it better the next time.”

The 2003 U.S. Open champ probably could have won two or three more majors, including last year’s Open at Olympic. At this point in his career, who knows how many more opportunities there might be?

Then again, Mickelson, another 43-year-old who knows all about highs and lows, just took home the claret jug.

“Trust me, I’ll be in a good mood the rest of the day,” said Furyk, who started in the morning from No. 10 with Peter Uihlein (77) and Thomas Bjorn (70). “It always feels good to play well. But I’m wise enough and been there enough to know that it’s only Thursday.

Much of his problems this season have been on the greens. But he used the short stick only 29 times, never a bad thing, especially in weeks like this.

“I feel like (with) putting, even at your most hopeless point and you’re really struggling, we’ve all been there before,” he said. “And sometimes it takes a day, sometimes it takes a week, sometimes it takes a month, but eventually you get the putter in your hand and it feels great one day.

“Felt great today. Doesn’t mean it’s going to feel great tomorrow. I feel like I’m a very streaky putter at times. But I think if you’re out here for 20 years, you’re going to go through that.”

Hearn, who lost a three-way playoff at the John Deere Classic the week before the British, got in last week when Brendan Jones withdrew. It’s his fourth major but first PGA. He tied for 21st at Merion.

Westwood, who missed the cut last August at Kiawah, did not make a bogey in his second start since closing with a 75 at Muirfield after holding the 54-hole lead.

“Golf doesn’t stress me or disappoint me very often anymore,” Westwood said. “Just get on with it and realize how lucky you are. I get up every day and go do something that I love.”

Six players are at 67, including Jason Day, who was in contention at the Masters and U.S. Open. Among the 11 at 68 are Rose, 2010 PGA champ Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson, who finished in the top three in his previous three starts, which includes the British.

“It all gets a bit different when the pressure is on Sunday,” Scott noted. “It gets harder.”

He should know, even when he’s making it look anything but.

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