'The best way to win is to get in contention. So far I'm on pace' Adam Scott of Australia launched his title defence at the Johnnie Walker Classic in imperious style yesterday, shooting a blistering eight-under-par 64 for the joint first-round lead with American Kevin Stadler. The 25-year-old Scott, aiming to become the first player to enjoy a repeat victory in the classic, finished off his round with three closing birdies at the Vines Resort and Country Club in a round that included five other birdies and one eagle. Stadler, whose father Craig is a former US Masters winner, made the most of a sponsor's invitation into this week's elite field with an outstanding round that included six birdies on the trot from the ninth. Asia's bid to deliver a first classic winner was led by K.J. Choi, who opened with a fine 65. The South Korean star, a three-time winner on the US PGA Tour, could have ended his day with an outrageous birdie. He hooked his drive at the last hole into water but drilled his third shot to within 12th feet of the pin, only to miss the birdie attempt. Australians Richard Green and Tony Carolan, a Monday qualifier, and flamboyant Frenchman Jean Van de Velde are a stroke further back after matching 66s. It was a mixed day for the Asian Tour's other challengers. India's Shiv Kapur, last season's rookie of the year and currently ninth on the Order of Merit, opened with a 68, eclipsing American Fred Couples, a former US Masters winner, by three strokes and matching Craig Parry, one of Australia's greats. Australian Terry Pilkadaris, a three-time winner in Asia, started steadily with a 68 as well, while Thai duo Chapchai Nirat and Chawalit Plaphol and South Korean Lee Sung-man shot 71s in the US$2.3 million event tri-sanctioned by the Asian, European and Australasian Tours. 'It was a great opening round, and I certainly had a lot of opportunities and I made some putts,' said Scott, who won last year's classic by leading from the first round. 'A little bit disappointing with that late bogey on 14 but to birdie 16, 17 set me up with a chance for a good finish, but unfortunately I didn't quite get the eagle putt to go on 18.' Scott, ranked 10th in the world, is also looking for a first triumph on home soil and warned his rivals he enjoys leading. 'The best way to win is to get in contention. So far I'm on pace, but I have to hang in there two more days so I'm around on Sunday. Like I said yesterday, I'd like to be out in front. That's where I'd feel most comfortable.'