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Relaxed Scott soaks in thrills as Masters champ

AUGUSTA, Georgia -- Just when Adam Scott started soaking in the comfort and joys of defending his Masters title Thursday, his ball started soaking in the waters of Rae's Creek.

The first Australian to win at Augusta National fired a three-under par 69, the best opening round by a defending Masters champion since 1995, to stand one stroke off the lead after 18 holes.

Scott admits that the early holes of the Masters test his nerves like nothing else in golf, but an ease and relative calm took over after he was announced as a Masters champion.

“Having won last year, I think in some ways, has taken a little pressure off me,” Scott said. “As I teed up today I kind of felt like, 'What's the worst that can happen? I'm still going to be a Masters champion.'”

Four birdies in 11 holes without a bogey had Scott feeling the affection from spectators as he reached the 12th tee.

“It was a thrill, really,” Scott said. “The reception into every green and almost every tee box was incredible, and the best one, the memory that will stick with me forever, was walking up to the 12th tee and everyone getting out of their seats as I approached.

“But then I went and hit it in the water.”

In the heart of Amen Corner, Scott hit a 9-iron into Rae's Creek, pitched to five feet and missed a bogey putt on the tricky par-3 hole.

“The only weak shot I hit, and it's actually the first time I think I've ever hit it in that creek,” Scott said.

Scott had only one birdie and three pars on par-5 holes, giving the Aussie ideas that he has room to improve.

“The par 5s are a big key for me here, and I didn't take advantage of them and shot 69, so that's a good indication of the quality of my play,” Scott said.

“Getting off to a good start in majors is huge, because I think they are the hardest tournaments to kind of chase. Birdies aren't that easy to come by usually at majors, and if you're six back, 10 back after the first round, it's a hard three days in front of you to peg it back. You almost have to play flawless.”

Scott will not yet contemplate joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo as the only back-to-back Masters winners.

“An amazing group of guys, great champions, but it's so much golf to play yet, I can't even think about it,” he said. “My goal teeing off today was to play three good days and get myself in contention and give myself a chance like I did last year.”

The liberating feeling of having a major title in your career has given Scott some liberation from tension.

“That wasn't exactly going through my head as I was dropping the ball for a penalty stroke, but something like that,” Scott said.

“There is a certain sense of freedom in the way you play and no doubt you can see that in the way Phil (Mickelson) has played around here since breaking through (with a 2004 Masters win) and hitting some incredible shots that maybe if he had not had the success or the wins, he might not have hit, being a little tighter.”

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 Veterans get it done in opening round at Masters 
Adam Scott, of Australia, tees off on the 12th hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, Thursday, April 10. (AP)

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