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Scott lifts Australia's spirits at British Open

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Australia's sportsmen have endured a miserable summer in Britain, with its tennis players slumping to a new low at Wimbledon and its cricketers humiliated by England.

The country's top golfer is doing his best to turn things around.

Propelled by a stellar run of eight birdies in 13 holes, Adam Scott equaled the course record with a 64 at the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on Thursday, giving him a one-shot lead after the first round.

“It was like a nice walk in the park today,” said Scott, who is one of 13 Australians looking to end the country's six-year barren run in majors.

In the more immediate term, things haven't been so hot in the other summer sports either.

Australia was walloped 4-0 by its Ashes rival in a one-day series — only rain prevented a potential 5-0 whitewash — while over at the All England Club, there was no Australian man in the second round of Wimbledon for the first time since 1938.

Take into account the Wallabies' embarrassing 9-6 loss to Scotland in a home rugby union test and it's been meager scrapings for Australia's sport-loving public.

“Yeah, a little bit of a lull for Aussie sport at the moment, I guess,” the 32-year-old Scott said, sheepishly.

If he can become Australia's first major winner since Geoff Ogilvy's victory at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the nation could yet be celebrating before the Olympics begin next week.

Scott hasn't won a major — the closest he has come was a tie for second with compatriot Jason Day at last year's Masters having led at the 71st hole — yet he has won eight tournaments on both the U.S. PGA and European Tours.

He also has on his bag one of the most respected and famous caddies around.

Steve Williams joined forces with Scott after being let go by Tiger Woods last year and had an immediate effect, with Scott winning the Bridgestone Invitational by four shots within a matter of weeks.

Woods won 13 majors with Williams and the New Zealander's experience and words of wisdom are having a big impact on his new man.

“I was playing well at the majors this year, but the first round I'm shooting myself in the foot a little bit and making it too much work to get back in it,” Scott said. “He (Williams) wanted me to go to that first tee today like it was the 72nd hole and you have three to win.

“That was a good little trigger he kind of helped out with.”

In fact, Scott really got going only after bogeying the par-4 No. 3.

Wearing shades underneath his cap, he made the most of the still conditions to birdie three of the next four holes and then pick up three more shots in a row from Nos. 11-13.

He quickly moved to the top of the leaderboard — overtaking Woods in the process — and only missed out on a course-record 63 by bogeying the last after hooking a 2-iron off the tee.

It sets Scott up for another shot at a major — at the 46th time of asking.

“It's been a good career. I've won a couple of tournaments most years, which is a good habit to have, because it's getting harder and harder to win out here,” Scott said.

“But I would say I haven't achieved what I wanted until I win a major, or more.”

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(Above) Adam Scott, of Australia, plays a shot on the 15th hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes golf club during the first round of the British Open Golf Championship in Lytham St. Annes, England on Thursday, July 19. (AP)

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