All eyes were glued to how Adam Scott wielded the long putter in a tournament for the first time in more than two years at the Australian PGA Championship today. Masters champion and playing partner Sergio Garcia gave his stamp of approval, saying Scott avoided any illegal contact with his body during the first round at RACV Royal Pines Resort.

Scott posted a one-under 71, defying the critics who have denounced continued usage of the long putter since a ban on ‘anchoring’ took effect on January 1, 2016.

Scott registered birdies on his second and third holes before a double-bogey at the par-3 16th saw him return to even par. A birdie from seven feet at the 18th saw him turn at one-under. After bogeys at the second and fourth holes, Scott recovered with birdies at his final two holes to shoot for the 71 that put him T-41 after round one.

Two rain delays stifled Scott’s early momentum. Three of his putts finished just short of the cup, preventing him from matching Garcia’s flawless five-under 67.

Australians Jordan Zunic and Adam Bland shared the first-round lead after shooting six-under 66. Garcia was a stroke back in a five-way tied for third with Marc Leishman, Peter Senior, Daniel Nisbet and Michael Wright.

Mark Brown was the leading Kiwi, shooting a three-under 69 to be T-15.

Garcia said it was evident Scott was keeping the end of the putter well clear of his body: “Obviously, we talked about it and he’s very cautious to make sure that he’s holding it the way you should hold it, making sure he doesn’t anchor it at any time.

“I looked at him throughout the whole day and you could see that he was making sure that he had it away from his chest, which is nice to see. But we know ‘Scotty’, we know Scotty’s a great gentleman, he’s a great boy and he’s never going to do anything that shouldn’t be done.

Scott admitted the extra moisture in the putting surfaces could have contributed to a number of missed opportunities.

“The greens slowed down obviously as we had some rain and a couple of delays. A couple of putts – that you’re hoping from 15 or 20 feet to drop in – just dived across the front. So all in all not too bad.”

As for the suggestion that any usage of the long putter is tantamount to cheating, Garcia said he knows from experience that using the long putter in the manner now required is not as easy as people think.

“I’ve tried it a couple of times and it’s not easy to keep it smooth. It’s just a matter of trying to use it the best way possible and making sure that you don’t break the rules.”