Scott, at No. 10 in the world the highest-ranked player in the field, overcame two front-nine bogeys and shot 3-under-par 67 to get to 8-under 202. The Aussie birdied two of the last three holes, including a 31/2-footer at the 429-yard 18th.
That put him three shots ahead of a quartet of players --- Sutherland (67), Bart Bryant (67), Charley Hoffman (68) and Ryan Moore (68). Sergio Garcia, after a season-best 65, was four strokes back along with Dudley Hart (66) and Jesper Parnevik (68).
Sutherland, whose only PGA Tour victory came six years ago, was at 7 under with a one-stroke lead over Scott until bogeys on the final two holes.
After missing a 7-foot par putt on the 198-yard 17th hole, Sutherland pushed his final tee shot way right into heavy rough --- and was still in the rough after his punch shot. He finally got to the front edge of the green and two-putted from 70 feet.
"I have to remember what I did before that," Sutherland said. "I had a good rhythm going, a good feeling and tried to keep doing that. ... I kind of got away from that maybe at the end."
While Sutherland was getting spectators moved out of the way for his first shot out of the rough at 18, Scott missed a chance for a bigger margin when his 9-foot birdie attempt at the 504-yard 15th hole drifted left only inches away from the hole. But Scott didn't wait long for another birdie chance.
Scott missed the fairway on the par-5 16th, layed up into the fairway and put his approach shot inside 6 feet to set up a birdie. After his aggressive birdie attempt at 17 rolled 6 feet past the hole, Scott's approach at 18 was right on the pin.
In his only other Nelson appearance two years ago, Scott shared the lead at the end of each of the first three rounds. A closing 71 left him in third place behind Brett Wetterich and Trevor Immelman, who missed the Nelson cut this year in his first tournament since winning the Masters Tournament.
Garcia had his best scoring round of the season despite hitting only two of 14 fairways. He needed only 27 putts.