By Mark Lamport-Stokes
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A late birdie blitz by Adam Scott rocketed the Australian into contention for the elite Tour Championship on Thursday, and gave him timely momentum in his bid to earn the PGA Tour Player of the Year award.
Coming into this week's PGA Tour season finale at East Lake Golf Club, the Masters champion had stated his burning ambition to be considered for the accolade but conceded that only victory here would thrust him into the conversation.
Scott certainly made sure he was a talking point after the opening round as he reeled off six birdies in seven holes from the 10th on the way to a five-under-par 65 to finish a stroke behind pacesetting Swede Henrik Stenson.
"I feel like my game's in good shape, and it was nice to kind of open up a little bit on the back nine and take advantage of some good shots," Scott told reporters after coming home in six-under 29 after lying one over at the turn.
"It was a tale of two nines, there's no doubt. I didn't start the way I wanted ... I missed three greens with wedges on the front nine and wasted all my chances to score.
"Then I hit two good shots into 10 and rolled in a putt in which calmed me down, and then I just went and played, and played the way I felt I could."
HAVING THE CHANCE
Though three rounds remain to be played in the fourth and final FedExCup event of the year where a $10 million bonus goes to the overall winner, Scott is excited to have the chance to advance his claims for Player of the Year.
"As I've been kind of on the periphery of the discussion of that for the last few weeks, it's been a motivating factor for sure, and I think it's a real achievement out here," he said.
"With such deep talent, if that was the vote from the other guys out here, I think that's a real achievement in your career. There haven't been too many guys who have been in the position the last 12 years to even warrant thinking about it.
"So it's an opportunity that might not come along too often. I'm going to be working hard to try and make my case for it for sure."
Scott has triumphed twice on the 2013 PGA Tour, as has British Open champion Phil Mickelson.
Those two are effectively locked into a three-horse race for Player of the Year honors with Tiger Woods, who has won a season-high five times without claiming a major title.
However, Woods struggled to a 73 on Thursday while Mickelson opened with a 71 to leave Scott in a superior position in the 30-man field.
"I've just got to keep my focus," said Scott. "That's really all I can think it was. Trust that all the work I've done is just going to hold up for a few days.
"Everything can change by Sunday," he added, referring to the various permutations in the hunt for overall FedExCup honors. "I mean, it changes five times on the back nine on Sunday.
"I've seen it all before. It's crazy what happens. So I can't even think about it. Just try and get there."
(Editing by Frankk Pingue)