PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — This is getting downright familiar for Adam Scott.
The Aussie is right in the thick of things for the fourth time in the last six majors. On Friday, he shot a 2-under 68 and walked off the East Course at Oak Hill with the lead at the PGA Championship.
While others took aim in the afternoon — Robert Garrigus briefly claimed a share of the outright lead, and Jason Dufner also made a charge up the leaderboard — Scott was assured of being no worse than one of the top contenders heading to the weekend in the final major of the year.
Pretty much par for the course these days.
“The platform has never been better for me to go on and win multiple majors,” Scott said. “You’ve got to take the confidence and form of winning a major and run with it.”
The day started out gray and damp, with periods of heavy showers softening the course, but the clouds broke in the afternoon. It was expected to remain warm and sunny the rest of the weekend.
While Tiger Woods came in as the overwhelming favorite, Scott increasingly looks like a player who will add more major titles to the one he finally got in a Masters playoff back in April.
Last summer, he endured the bitter disappointment of losing a British Open that seemed all but locked up before he bogeyed the final four holes, losing to Ernie Els by a stroke. Instead of moping about that defeat, he used it as a catalyst to win at Augusta National, where he defeated Angel Cabrera on the second extra hole.
Three weeks ago, Scott had another Sunday lead on the back nine of the British Open before fading with another run of bogeys.
Now, here he goes again.
“I’m playing well in the majors and giving myself a chance,” Scott said. “I don’t care if they call me the best player as long as I win on Sunday.”
Scott was tied for the lead with Jim Furyk after matching 65s in the opening round.
Going out in the morning rain, Scott chipped in at the very first hole for the first of five birdies on the day. He could have gone lower if not for a long putter that was a bit shaky. He missed a couple of attempts inside 10 feet and a few more that were just a little farther away.
Of course, there was a 40-footer that dropped in the cup at the second hole, so Scott couldn’t complain too much.
He headed to the weekend at 7-under 133 overall.
“I felt like if I was really hot with the putter, I couldn’t have been a lot better,” Scott said. “But the course was playing really long when it was raining. So 68 is a good score.”
Furyk, playing in the afternoon, birdied the first hole, strung together a bunch of pars and was one shot back approaching the turn. Garrigus surged into contention with five birdies in his first eight holes. Dufner holed out for eagle at No. 2, positioning himself to make another run at a PGA title. Two years ago, he squandered a four-shot lead with four holes to play at the Atlanta Athletic Club and lost to Keegan Bradley in a playoff.
They weren’t the only ones in the mix.
U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, bouncing back from missing the cut at the British Open, shot 6-under 29 over his final nine holes for a 66 that left him one stroke behind Scott.
Webb Simpson, a former U.S. Open champ, also made a big charge. He was 7 under through his first 15 holes and flirting with the major championship scoring record before a bogey at the seventh — his 16th hole of the round — stemmed the momentum. He had one more birdie shot at the eighth, but missed a 10-footer.
Simpson finished with a 64, tying the course record but one stroke shy from the lowest round ever in a major.
“I was thinking about it coming down the last few holes,” said Simpson, whose 136 total left him three shots back.
Martin Kaymer, who won the PGA three years ago after Dustin Johnson’s dubious penalty, shot his second straight 68 to get into contention.
Woods made back-to-back birdies with putts inside 10 feet at the fifth and sixth holes, but he still had a lot of work to do in his bid to break an 0-for-17 drought in the majors.
The world’s top-ranked player opened with a disappointing 71. By the time he teed off in the afternoon, there were 41 players between him and the top spot on the leaderboard.
Others ripped through a course that seemed very much there for the taking, the birdies falling into the cup at an alarming rate.
But Oak Hill still had some bite. Just ask Lee Westwood, who made a double-bogey at the eighth, then a bogey on his final hole for a 73 that knocked him off the board.
Early on, the dreary weather provided another chance to go right at the soft greens, the same sort of conditions that made the opening round seem more like a regular tour event than a test of major proportions.
“It’s a course you can attack,” said British Open champion Phil Mickelson, whose game wasn’t up to the task. Lefty shot his second straight 71, leaving him nine strokes behind Scott and flirting with the cut line.
Defending PGA champ Rory McIlroy was headed to the weekend after bouncing back from a tough start Friday. He played his first 10 holes at 5 over, but closed with four birdies for a 71 that left him even for the tournament.
“I’ve just got to try to get off to a fast start tomorrow,” said McIlroy, who won last year by a record eight strokes at Kiawah Island. “I need to shoot something in the mid-60s to give myself a chance on Sunday.”
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