ORLANDO, Fla. – In the spring of 2001, competing as a largely unknown 20-year-old sponsor exemption, Adam Scott walked off the first green at Bay Hill Club and Lodge and immediately bumped into the owner sitting on a nearby golf cart, a man who just happens to be among the greatest legends ever to play the game.
“Adam, it's great to have you here,” Arnold Palmer beamed in the direction of the young Australian, who was shocked that he even knew his name.
One small handshake for man, one giant encounter for mankind. Or so the saying goes.
It might not have seemed too momentous at the time, but when the King greeted the boy who would be prince, there was enough coolness between the two of ’em to freeze Orlando.
Thirteen years later, with Scott’s reign as golf’s coolest cat – Under-80 Division - firmly entrenched in the breast pocket of his green jacket, he posted an opening-round 10-under 62 at Arnie’s Place, tied for his lowest career round, tied for the lowest round ever at Bay Hill and significant in the fact that it furthered the argument about just how good it is to be him these days.
“I can't complain, I must say,” Scott explained in his movie-star Aussie accent. “I'm playing golf for a living. That's a good start, isn't it?”
So is a round that included two eagles, seven birdies and nearly 200 feet of made putts.
It was enough to leave us thinking, not for the first time, that this guy really is living the charmed life.
This isn't a new theory, but it's one worth espousing once again today: If you were to trade lives with one professional athlete, if you were to have one of those B-movie fantasy cliches where the two of you step into a fountain and lightning strikes and suddenly, inexplicably, your life becomes his and his life becomes yours, you could do a lot worse than Scott.
He's young (relatively), good-looking (so I'm told), owns the world's prettiest golf swing (pass the torch, Ernie Els) and has that green jacket hanging in his closet (no parenthetical needed).
He doesn't have 330-pound nose tackles nipping at his heels like Tom Brady, isn't under constant scrutiny like LeBron James and can still show his face in public without being mobbed - unlike Tiger Woods, the man whose No. 1 world ranking he's chasing.
Yes, with three more days like the first one – even just somewhere in the same ballpark – Scott can overtake Woods to become the top-ranked player for the first time in his career. The way the numbers work, it wouldn’t happen immediately, but if neither player tees it up again before the Masters, then Scott will claim the No. 1 ranking on Monday of that week.
“I want some of whatever he’s got,” playing partner Justin Rose said in his best “When Harry Met Sally” diner impersonation.
Scott has often been known to make golf look easy, but Thursday he made making it look easy look easy.
He chipped in once. He rolled in four putts of at least 19 feet. He played the four par-5s in a combined 6 under. On a day when plenty of players went low, he went lower than anyone by an impressive four strokes.
“I'm really thrilled with the start today,” he said. “It's maybe a little surprising. I don't know where it came from, but the putter certainly got hot today.”
It was enough to cement his place as one of the Masters favorites just three weeks before his title defense.
It was also enough to once again get the attention of the Big Man on Campus.
“He has been playing very well since he won the Masters last year,” Palmer said. “This certainly shows what a quality player he is. The Bay Hill course is playing somewhat like Augusta might play in April.”
Minutes after finishing up his 62, Scott hadn’t yet run into Palmer. If and when he does, though, the coolness factor will go up a few notches, just like it did the first time they met here.
“Hopefully I get to bump into him, it would be nice,” Scott allowed. “It's always fun to be around the guy, especially at the golf course, as well. To see the passion he has for the game of golf is a good reminder how good it is to us all and hopefully get a chance to see him this week.”
Thursday was a pretty nice reminder how good it is to be Scott, too. And he might be just three rounds away from it becoming even better.