Spieth on top, Scott struggles at Australian Open

WORLD No.3 Adam Scott has had another poor start to a major tournament in his own country, shooting a three-over-par round of 74 to start the Australian Open in Sydney.

As he did at last week's Masters in Melbourne, the Aussie struck trouble early in his round.

He began with a double bogey at the first, a long par four where he hit his approach into the greenside bunker and bladed his trap shot over the green.

A three-putt bogey at the par-four third hole, then another bogey at the sixth, where he failed to get up and down from the right bunker, added to his woes.

Scott ended up dropping five shots in his opening nine holes despite relatively calm conditions, at one stage slipping to 138th position on the leaderboard and needing to make serious inroads to have a chance of playing on the weekend. He sits in a tie for 86th, seven shots behind American star Jordan Spieth, who leads outright on four-under.

Playing with Scott and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge in the afternoon session, Spieth showed the sort of form that saw him finish second to countryman Bubba Watson in this year's US Masters at Augusta.

He started relatively slowly, making the turn at one-under, but birdies on the 10th, 14th, 15th and 16th saw him catapult to the top of the leaderboard, before he handed one back at the 17th to lead by a single stroke from New South Welshmen Scott Gardiner and Aron Price. Gardiner provided the highlight of the day, a hole-in-one at the par-three 11th.

Lurking a further shot back was world No.1 Rory McIlroy, who kicked off the defence of his title with a two-under-par round of 69.

Starting on the 10th tee, the Northern Irishman turned in even par after managing just one birdie on his opening nine holes. That came at the 459-metre par-four 14th, but he gave it back at the very next hole when unable to save par from the trap on the par-three 15th.

He then collected birdies on the first and fifth holes before dropping another on the seventh. A brilliant approach to his final hole of the day gave him a tap-in birdie and a brief share of the clubhouse lead at two-under.

"I thought anything under par today was a decent score and it was nice to birdie the last and shoot something in the 60s. It puts me right there going into tomorrow," McIlroy said. "I gave myself a lot of chances early on … and didn't really take them."

Playing alongside McIlroy, Matt Jones - a lifelong member of the course - struck a spectator in the head with an errant drive on the second-last hole.

There was concern for the fan, with medics called, but he appeared okay and received a signed ball from the US PGA Tour star, who finished with a disappointing five over.

Topics:  adam scott australian open golf

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