ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson weren't on the grounds, and then Bubba Watson exited in mid-sneeze with allergies. Short eight Masters green jackets and losing substantial star power by the hole, the Arnold Palmer Invitational needed a break.
Adam Scott provided it Thursday with a resounding round of 62 to tie a course record, although the lowest score in 30 years at Bay Hill was in jeopardy of never happening, either.
In keeping with the tournament theme, a sickly Scott also considered pulling out just before the event, not that he'd miss it all that much. He respects Palmer, but the course for years has bedeviled him, thus his absence since 2009.
Scott certainly felt better after shooting 10 under par to take a three-shot lead on the field. With Woods resting his balky back, the world's No. 2-ranked player and reigning Masters champion gave Arnie's tourney a Tiger-like jump-start.
Ryo Ishikawa and John Merrick each shot 65 to share second and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano carded a 66. Brandt Snedeker led a group of six players who shot 67.
Scott, 33, said he seldom slept Wednesday night. He was a walking flu commercial, talking about his fever, congestion, swollen glands and the sweats, hot and cold.
"I wasn't really up for it this morning," he said.
Scott said he'd like to thank the bug he's battling for keeping his expectations low, his nerves calm and his putter steady.
"I think that's really a true adage: Beware of the sick golfer," Scott said, managing a smile. "The expectations lower, slows you down and almost takes your mind off what's going on because you're not even feeling human sometimes…You're just more interested in feeling better than playing golf."
His 62 was the lowest at Bay Hill since fellow Aussie Greg Norman shot 62 in 1984. Andy Bean also hit the number in 1981.
Scott's stellar round was highlighted by two eagles and seven birdies. He played the par-fives in six under on a crisp and mostly sun-splashed day, draining putts from 19, 26 and 28 feet for birdies as well as putts of 36 and 19 feet for eagles.
"I don't know where it came from, but the putter certainly got hot today," he said. "It was one of those days where the hole was a bit like a bucket."
Scott had a chance to break the Bay Hill record held by nine players. But he had a bogey on 18 — he started on the back nine — and parred his last three holes.
Scott called his day "right up there" at the top of his career highlights. No. 1 is winning the Masters last April. He usually brings the green jacket with him on Tour.
"I wear it quite frequently. It's here with me this week," he said.
Scott said he's even worn the jacket at friends' houses. "Someone told me Phil went to a drive-through with it on. I didn't really know if I should be pushing the boundaries of where I could wear the green jacket," he said.
Scott has played Bay Hill only twice the past eight years and dropped the event from his schedule after missing the cut in 2009. He did tie for third in 2004, but the other five times he has played here, his best finish was 25th (2003).
"I had a few frustrating years here and left it off the schedule," he said. "I had played poorly and that obviously didn't have me leaving here having really positive thoughts. It's very hard to go to a venue not being positive right from the get-go."
Scott said a change in course setup and advice from his caddie — Steve Williams, Woods' former bag-toter — helped him make his way back to Bay Hill.
And Thursday, he was glad he returned, the sick golfer improving the well-being of the Arnold Palmer Invitational from the get-go.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times