Golf: Rose, Scott to face off at Australian Open

SYDNEY: England's Justin Rose and Adam Scott of Australia will face off in a pairing in the opening two rounds of the Australian Open, teeing off at The Lakes in Sydney on Thursday.

Rose and Scott are the top drawcards at the A$1.25 million ($1.3 million) tournament but the spotlight will also be on Chinese teen sensation Guan Tianlang - the youngest player ever to qualify for the US Masters.

World number four Rose, who finished second behind top-ranked Rory McIlroy at last month's World Tour Championship in Dubai, will play the opening 36 holes alongside Scott, seventh in the rankings.

"It is a great draw for me. I regard Adam as one of my best friends out on Tour," Rose said on Wednesday.

"The great thing is that you play the golf course. You are not really eye-to-eye or head-to-head, especially on days one and two."

Scott beat England's Ian Poulter by four shots at Melbourne's Kingston Heath last month to win the Australian Masters for the first time, saying it made up "in a small way" for his capitulation at this year's British Open, when he blew a four-shot lead over the last four holes at Royal Lytham.

The top-ranked Australian said he will probably use his broomstick putter as he chases a second Australian Open crown at the event, co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia and OneAsia.

Scott played his practice round at The Lakes on Tuesday without his trusty long putter.

"I'll probably putt with the long putter," he said on Wednesday.

"The other one I was messing around with was my first go and it's not quite what I wanted. It is not quite set up right for me.

"I'll have another go at another time if I feel I need to."

World golf's two law-making bodies, the R&A and USGA, have proposed to outlaw "anchored" putting, where the club is pivoted by a player's belly or chest, by 2016.

Chinese phenomenon Guan, 14, plans to use the Australian experience as preparation for his appearance at the US Masters in April.

"I think (it will be good preparation for the Masters) because it's a pretty big tournament," said Guan, who won last month's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

"To play with some of the world's greatest players, I want to enjoy everything about it - the course and all the stuff they do. Just get to know all about it," he added.

Tom Watson, the eight-time Major winner who is also playing in Sydney, said there was a chance that Guan would not fulfil his potential although he did not think that would be the case.

"This young man has been cultured into golf. I've read some of his history. Golf is his life. We have seen a lot of golf prodigies, many of whom did not make it. Is there a danger of that? Yes, there is.

"But if I had that chance at 14, I'd jump at it. I'd be at Augusta quicker than you could spit."

Australian left-hander Greg Chalmers is defending his Australian Open title.

- AFP/de

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