[PHOTO: Getty Images]

Cameron Davis had to suppress a laugh when asked how he felt about shooting his way into contention at Augusta National on a windy, weather-delayed first round at the 88th Masters.

“I played golf nearly every day growing up in Sydney in conditions like this,” Davis, who grew up in the wind at Monash Country Club, told Australian Golf Digest. “This is just a normal day playing golf on the Northern Beaches.”

Maybe, but severe weather overnight was enough to delay the start of play more than two hours before round one was suspended just before 8pm due to darkness. Conditions were gusting up to 50km/h for most of the first round.

Davis’ three-under-par 69 left him just four shots behind first-round clubhouse leader, Bryson DeChambeau (65). Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion, was predictably high on the leaderboard after a 66. Former Masters winner Danny Willett (68) was four-under.

Kiwi Ryan Fox was three under after a gutsy 69.

Davis played smart golf in a round of five birdies and two bogeys. He hit 3-wood off the tee at the lengthened par-5 second to stay short of the fairway bunker, then wielded it again off the deck to just short of the green, setting up a birdie 4. Davis birdied all four par 5s at Augusta National, as well as the difficult par-4 fifth hole. It was just dropped shots at 10 and 11 that kept him from snapping at DeChambeau’s heels.

Davis’ form leading into the Masters was nothing to write home about – four top-30 results and two missed cuts – but he was the leading Australian when play was halted. The lanky lad from the Sydney suburb of Forestville (but who now lives in Seattle) was seemingly born to play Augusta with his effortless length, laser-straight ball flight and crafty half-wedge game.

A winner on the PGA Tour in 2021 and of the 2017 Australian Open, Davis wants to win a maiden career major, but isn’t letting himself think past the second round. “I’m happily married, healthy and enjoying living in Seattle with my wife. No complaints. In terms of a major, yeah everyone out here wants to win one badly. I’d love to play. I just need to stay patient out there and have a chance come Sunday.”

Cameron Smith was two shots behind Davis having scrapped through the windy conditions for a 71.

The 2022 Open champion was happy to be here, and hoping to hang in there. That was his mantra after battling a mystery illness – glad just to be on the grounds of Augusta National let alone under par.

He had three birdies and, like Davis, could have been lurking over DeChambeau’s shoulder if not for a double-bogey 5 at the par-3 12th.

“Yeah, absolutely [happy to be under par],” Smith said. “I think just with the prep not being probably as good as I wanted it to be, and then the conditions today were pretty tough. I struck the ball really well and probably didn’t have my best day with the putter. It was pretty tough on the greens, to be fair, anyway. Kind of gusty and fast. I’ve got a little bit of cleanup to do with the putter and should be good.”

Smith shot 71 to sit one-under after his first round.

Six behind the lead after round one, Smith said the key was to “hang in there” and keep himself within striking distance for the final round, where anything can happen.

“I think you’ve just got to stay in it around here. I think the course is going to get firmer and faster. You have that kind of hot moment where you have four or five-under par for nine holes and you’re right back in it. It’s just kind of waiting for that to happen. Over the next few days I’m not going to have my best stuff, and you’ve got to grind it out and stay in the tournament.”

Of the other Australians, former world No.1 Jason Day, playing alongside Tiger Woods, was even-par through 13 holes when play was suspended. Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters winner, was one-over and also managed just 13 holes.

Min Woo Lee had a wild round that ended in a two-over 74. The Perth tour pro was four-over through six holes, then brought it back to even-par with birdies at the par-5 eighth and par-3 12th, while an eagle at the par-5 13th was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing day. Lee then bogeyed the 14th and 16th.

Amateur Jasper Stubbs, from East Gippsland via Melbourne, was flying at one-under through three holes but fell down the leaderboard with an eight-over 80.