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Friday, March 21, 2014

A Kinder, Gentler Bay Hill?

First Jason Day withdrew from Bay Hill with hand problems. Then Tiger Woods withdrew with more back spasms. And after a first round of 83, Bubba Watson withdrew with allergies.

All of them must be wondering what course Adam Scott is playing.

Adam Scott

Scott tied the course record with a 10-under 62, a record that has stood for 30 years. According to the wrap-up, only Andy Bean in 1981 and Greg Norman in 1984 have ever shot 62 at Bay Hill. And Adam did it despite having flu-like symptoms.

Do I really need to add that he's the 18-hole leader? He really should play Bay Hill more often!

I imagine most of the field is in shock. After all, Bay Hill rarely gives up low scores -- at least, not to anyone but Tiger. The article mentions that one caddie asked Adam what he shot and, upon being told, he said, "Is there a 10-shot rule when you haven't teed off?"

But the guy who really caught my eye on the leaderboard was Ryo Ishikawa. He, along with John Merrick, is at -7. Despite missing some cuts this season, he's got one runner-up finish and may be starting to round into form for Augusta. I'll definitely be watching him for the next few weeks.

Adam is clearly the favorite since Tiger isn't there... and especially NOW, after this first round. And if he should win and neither he nor Tiger play before the Masters, I understand that Adam would take over #1 in the OWGR the week of the Masters.

But here's what you should be watching for: They aren't expecting any wind to speak of at Bay Hill this week. Despite the greens still being fairly firm, they can be attacked. Will the field be able to readjust their tactics in time to post some low scores?

More to the point, could the tournament record fall this year? In 1987 Payne Stewart set the aggregate record of 264 (that was -20 on a par-71 setup) while the record-to-par is -23 (265 on a par-72 setup) by Buddy Allin in 1973.

This is one time when ignorance may truly be bliss. Since Adam hasn't played this event in a while, he may not have the cautious mindset of the other players. And since his caddie Steve Williams was on Tiger's bag for "a few" of Tiger's 8 wins, Adam's got all the inside info he needs.

Might want to stay sick for a few more days, Adam. It appears Bay Hill might have a soft spot for you. ;-)

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