By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Adam Scott showed his growing comfort with the short putter as he lit up Huntingdale Golf Club with a seven-under 64 to take a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Australian Masters on Thursday.
The former world number one made the most of benign conditions on a muggy, overcast morning and rolled in five birdies on his last eight holes on the storied sandbelt course in Melbourne.
Strong winds later in the day made it difficult for the chasing pack but Western Australian Daniel Fox roared home with five birdies on his last five holes to finish with a 65, one off the pace in outright second.
Three other local professionals -- Peter Wilson, Matthew Stieger and Mathew Goggin -- were two strokes further adrift on four-under.
For Scott, now world number 12, it was a pleasing return to form after a forgettable week at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where he finished 70th in the limited field.
"Everything panned out today," Scott, Australia's only U.S. Masters champion, told reporters after his bogey-free round.
"I played really solid so it's nice to see a little bit of the work I've been doing last week and early this week fall into place in the tournament situation."
The 2012 and 2013 winner, Scott is bidding for his third Masters in the last four years but first at Huntingdale, where he missed out in playoffs at the 2002 and 2003 tournaments.
Scott possesses one of the finest swings in the game but has long battled for consistency on the greens and has gradually switched to the short putter after years of using a broomstick-style club.
Anchoring, or the practice of using a part of the body to help control the swing of a putter, is banned from 2016, and Scott was one of the more prominent exponents.
The transition has led to mixed results but he was pleased to need only 28 putts for his round after hitting 16 out of 18 greens in regulation.
"I feel like it's in a good spot," the 35-year-old said of his putting. "But hopefully there are more good weeks and the confidence continues to build."
John Senden, a two-time U.S. Tour event winner, shot two-under to be five off the pace.
Rising American talent Bryson Dechambeau, who became only the fifth player to win the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA championship in the same season this year, shot two-under in Scott's group.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford/John O'Brien)