Scott finally takes up Lord Byron, and shares first-round lead


IRVING, Texas (AP) – Adam Scott finally made it to Lord Byron’s tournament. The young Australian looked right at home.

With the timing finally working out to accept an invitation from the tournament’s namesake, Scott shot a 5-under 65 Thursday on the TPC at Las Colinas and shared the first-round lead with Steve Lowery at the Byron Nelson Championship.

“I made sure I got here this year,” Scott said. “I had seen Mr. Nelson at the Masters for the last five years and he always asked me. I always said I’d try, and I never made it. … It’s not guilt. But certainly out of respect for him.”

Despite a pair of three-putt bogeys in a three-hole stretch, Scott had the best round of the day on the 7,052-yard TPC course after a closing 11-foot birdie putt.

Lowery shot his bogey-free 65 across the street on the easier 6,871-yard Cottonwood Valley layout, where Scott gets to play his second round Friday. There were 37 rounds under par Thursday, 24 of them at Cottonwood.

Uncharacteristic northerly breezes changed the way many holes usually play. Lowery, in his 15th Nelson, said players were “hitting different clubs into the greens than we’ve been hitting most of the years.”

It was all new to Scott, but he still felt comfortable on the course.

“I didn’t really know anything much about the courses here. I couldn’t even get a little bit from the times I’ve watched (on television),” Scott said. “Funny though, I find them both similar to golf courses I grew up playing, similar in shape and the way the trees are out there.”

Bob Estes and Brett Wetterich both had opening 66s at Cottonwood Valley.

Australian native Nathan Green, who now lives in the Dallas area, was two strokes back after joining Tim Herron and Omar Uresti with 67s. They were among 10 players only two strokes back, but they were the only ones who did it on the TPC course.

Last May, the Nelson was the first regular PGA Tour event to have the world’s top five players in the field. Missing this year are the top three, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen.

Woods hasn’t said when he will return after the death of his father, Earl, last week.

Mickelson cited personal reasons when he withdrew this week. But the Masters champion indicated that he needed a break before playing his way to the U.S. Open and a possible third straight major victory.

Fourth-ranked Vijay Singh, playing his 20th tournament since last winning in July, started his round at Cottonwood with a double bogey and a bogey on the first two holes. After another bogey at No. 10 offset his first birdie, Singh got even with three birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine.

Defending champion Ted Purdy and Jim Furyk, ranked fifth in the world after winning the Wachovia Championship last week, also shot 70s at Cottonwood.

The 25-year-old Scott, who two years ago was the youngest winner of The Players Championship, finally worked the Nelson into his schedule this year.

“It always fell on the wrong week, unfortunately,” said Scott, who usually goes back to the European Tour in May. “This one just fell a little too early for my run coming for the U.S. Open, or whatever it may be.”

Scott’s round began the same way it ended, with an 11-foot birdie putt even though he missed the fairway on the 385-yard No. 1 hole.

When he chipped from 74 feet to one on the 533-yard par-5 7th, Scott began a stretch of three consecutive birdies to end his front nine.

Between his three-putts at Nos. 12 and 14 for his only bogeys, Scott hit a 7-iron on the 183-yard 13th to 26 inches from the cup and made the birdie putt.

“I got off to a good start and really played solid golf the whole way around,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, I had a couple of three-putts, but I made up for that with some other good putts, too.”

Scott finished third at the Wachovia Championship last week, his 19th top-10 finish in 66 PGA Tour events over the past five seasons.

Lowery also had an opening 65 at Nelson last year, then followed with rounds of 69, 72 and 75 to finish tied for 64th.

“I did not remember that,” insisted Lowery, who has never finished better than 11th. “I’ve never really done anything that dramatic here, but I’ve played some good rounds.”

Divots: All weekend rounds are played on the TPC course. … Bubba Watson had to withdraw when his caddie was unable to get to the course on time with the clubs for an 8 a.m. tee time. Watson was replaced by Brian Bateman (72). Tommy Armour III (blister split open on hand) and Thomas Levet (left rib cage injury) also withdrew. They weren’t replaced, leaving the field at 154 players. … Bubba Dickerson (67) got to 5-under through 13 holes at Cottonwood, but fell out of the lead with bogeys at Nos. 15 and 17.

AP-ES-05-11-06 1904EDT