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Scott feeling right at home

Ex-champ fires 63, shares lead

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By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / September 4, 2011

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NORTON - Love affair might not be an accurate description, but Adam Scott certainly has a warm spot in his heart for the Deutsche Bank Championship. His first PGA Tour victory came here in 2003, he tied for second a year later, and tied for fifth last year. In six previous trips to TPC Boston, he has never missed the cut.

Make it seven made cuts now. And if Scott has his way, come tomorrow night, he’ll make it two wins.

Using an eagle on the 18th hole to punctuate a bogey-free round, Scott shot 63 yesterday, joining Bubba Watson (64) and Charl Schwartzel (66) in the lead at 10 under par through two rounds. Those three players have combined for four wins this year, including a major (Schwartzel at the Masters) and a World Golf Championship (Scott at Firestone).

Low scores and big names at the top are quite common here. Two holes-in-one on the same hole three groups apart - Brandt Snedeker and Greg Chalmers on the 16th - were a first.

On a breezy day that saw a little bit of everything, it was Scott’s presence that brought to mind the tournament’s early days, back when the course looked and played differently and Scott was a scruffy 23-year-old taking on Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.

“I can still remember a lot about it. I wasn’t even a member of the tour. That’s how I got my membership,’’ Scott said. “I was a sponsor’s invite, I think. Just to be in the mix of a PGA Tour event was really the big buzz for me. It was a big deal, obviously, for me. To beat Tiger was a big deal. I think that’s probably the first time I ever did that.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing here. It sets up well for me.’’

The 63 was topped only by the second-round 62 he used to win in 2003, but it’s the sixth straight time he has broken 70 at TPC Boston. It also extended a torrid stretch he has been on since missing the cut at the US Open. In his last five starts, he has tied for third at the AT&T National, tied for 25th at the British Open, won at Firestone, tied for seventh at the PGA, and tied for 67th at the Barclays.

“I haven’t had all parts of my game feeling this good over a period of time for a long time, and that’s probably why I’m able to keep up the good play,’’ Scott said. “Everything is in a good place.’’

He felt the 69 he opened with was the highest score he could have shot, and left with steam coming out of his ears after two late three-putts. The putts that were misread and mis-hit Friday were all finding the hole yesterday, with Scott one-putting 10 times, including five straight, starting on No. 18 and continuing to the front nine.

Schwartzel cost Scott a chance at his first major championship, closing the Masters with birdies on the final four holes at Augusta National to beat Scott by two. He had never played the Deutsche Bank Championship before, and coming off a trip back home to South Africa, arrived at TPC Boston early Tuesday. Three days of solid prep work sharpened Schwartzel’s game. Two days of tournament play has seen him go 66-66, without much difficulty.

Choosing to skip the Barclays last week, Schwartzel is giving himself only three events to win the FedEx Cup in what’s officially his rookie season on the PGA Tour. It’s the route Tiger Woods (2007) and Jim Furyk (2010) took in capturing the seasonlong points race and the $10 million that comes with it.

“I’m aware,’’ Schwartzel said, when asked if he knew that Woods and Furyk won despite sitting out the opener. “It’s a good omen.’’

Unlike Scott, Schwartzel bogeyed the 18th. Like Scott, he then moved to the front nine and flipped the switch. Schwartzel birdied six of the first seven holes, only a par on No. 5 interrupting the streak. Four of the birdies came from inside 7 feet, proof that he was locked in with his irons and hitting fairways.

Schwartzel seems perfectly comfortable in the skin of a major champion. Watson has never won a major, but three wins in less than a year elevated him to a new level. New demands, new expectations. He admits it hasn’t been a smooth transition: The two victories this year have been nice, but since winning in New Orleans in late April, he doesn’t have a top-20 finish.

“You’ve got a lot more fans, you’ve got a lot more friends, you’ve got a lot more family, you’ve got a lot more of everything,’’ Watson said. “You never dream about the other stuff that comes with it, how much energy it takes to play good golf every week. I’m getting used to it.

“The mental part is my biggest struggle. The physical part I’ve always thought I was pretty good at.’’

He was plenty good yesterday, making eagle on No. 7 for the second day in a row. Since Watson was the first to finish, he’ll be in today’s final twosome with Schwartzel. Scott will draw Snedeker, who used the first ace of his PGA Tour career to reach 9-under and sit a shot back.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.