He bounced back from that double bogey by driving the 336-yard 16th hole and two-putting for birdie, then making birdie on the final hole to join guys like Ernie Els, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Steve Stricker, who followed an eagle from the 13th fairway with a double bogey on the next hole.
One sign of the easy scoring was that no one shot in the 80s. That hasn’t happened in the opening round of the British Open since 1998 at Royal Birkdale, where conditions also were benign. Woods opened with a 65 that year, only to get blown away in bad weather the next round.
Perhaps bad weather is on the way. The forecast hasn’t been nearly as accurate as Scott was with his tee shots on Thursday — sunshine when it calls for rain, clouds when the forecast is for dry spells.
Els and his caddie, Ricci Roberts, figured out immediately that dead calm translates to low scores.
“It’s on today,” he said. “I said to Ricci, ‘I might not have the chance again.’ You never know how the weather is going to be.”
But even in such weather suited for low scores, Lytham still required tee shots in the fairway. It still demanded good shots. And it was a struggle for some.
Lee Westwood, despite a birdie-birdie start, hit a bunker shot across the third green to take double bogey, and had to play a left-handed shot out of the back end of a pot bunker on the 13th hole as he staggered to a 73. Luke Donald made a sloppy bogey — his only one of the round — on the final hole for a 70. Justin Rose played in the same group as Woods and already was nine shots behind after eight holes. He rallied for a 74.
Lytham was there for the taking — as long as the tee shots found the fairway.
Phil Mickelson, a runner-up at Royal St. George’s last year, went from the left rough to the right rough on the par-5 seventh to make double bogey on the easy hole at Lytham. On the next hole, he tried to hit wedge out of a pot bunker and it got snagged in high grass just over the lip. A small search party nearly didn’t find it, and Mickelson had to take a penalty shot to drop it back in the fairway.
“I putted poorly today and I drove it horrific and the chipping was below average,” he said.
Scott had no such issues. After an early bogey when he got out of position on the third hole, he warmed up with birdies on the sixth and seventh holes, and then ran off three straight birdies on the back nine, starting with the 598-yard 11th hole that he reached in two shots.
Royal Lytham was changed to a par 70 this year, and with a birdie on the 16th that put him at 7 under, Scott needed one more birdie to become the first player with a 62 in the majors. There have been 25 rounds of 63.
“I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee and I did a look at the leaderboard and realized it was a par 70,” he said. “And I also probably then realized that I wasn’t going to be the guy to shoot 62. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that.”
He slightly pulled a 2-iron off the tee on the 18th, played out of the thick rough short of the green and failed to save par.
No matter. His 64, which matched Tom Lehman’s third-round score in 1996 when he went on to win his only major.