Masters Tournament - Relaxed Scott makes great start to Masters defence

Adam Scott, playing with the freedom and unwavering self-belief of a man who has already achieved his life's ambition, made a spectacular start to his Masters title defence.

Golf - Scott overtakes Woods as world number one

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Adam Scott (Reuters)

Unshackled from the pressure he had shouldered for years following his breakthrough Major win last year, the Australian shot a three-under-par 69 to finish the opening round near the top of the leaderboard.

He spoiled what could have been an even better round when he hit his tee shot into the water at the 12th hole for a double-bogey but could hardly have been happier as he strolled around the Augusta National course without a care in the world.

"There's no doubt winning the Masters last year had me a little more comfortable on the first tee than I've ever been in the past," he said.

"I didn't have the legs shaking and nerves jangling for six or seven holes like usual, so that was enjoyable for me today."

After surviving a nailbiting play-off win last year under intense pressure, it was little wonder that Scott was so composed when he arrived at the first tee.

The crowd cheered when the Australian's name was announced then roared when he birdied the tricky opening hole.

"Getting off to a good start in a Major is huge, because I think they are the hardest tournaments to kind of chase," he said.

"Birdies aren't that easy to come by usually at Majors and if you're six back, five back, 10 back after the first round, it's a hard three days in front of you to peg it back.

"You almost have to play flawless. So to get off to a good start is key."

Scott made a second birdie at the par-3 sixth then another at the par-5 eighth to reach the turn at three-under.

At the 10th hole, where he sealed his play-off win over Angel Cabrera last year, he drained a 12-foot downhill putt to reach minus four before briefly losing his concentration.

When he arrived at the par-3 12th hole, the spectacular middle leg of Amen Corner, the crowd instinctively rose to applaud him.

He tipped his cap and flashed a big smile then plopped his tee shot into Rae's Creek and missed a four-foot putt to sign for a double.

"The memory that will stick with me forever today was walking up to the 12th tee and everyone getting out of their seats as I approached there," said Scott.

"It was great...but then I went and hit it in the water.

"I just lost a little focus on that shot and didn't commit fully to it and paid a price on that one."

Scott did not drop any more shots in his round but did miss his chance to post a better score when he three-putted both par-5s on the back nine as he started to struggle with the notoriously fast greens.

But he did manage to salvage a long par putt on the 18th to match his opening round score from last year and become the first defending champion in 13 years to break 70 in the first round.

"I was very happy with the way I played today tee-to-green. It was really how you hope to come out and play at any Major, and especially the Masters," he said.

"I hit the one poor shot on 12, which obviously cost me a couple of shots. But very pleased to get off to a good start.

"My goal teeing off today was to play three good days and get myself in contention and give myself a chance like I did last year."

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