It’s early doors but Open Championship winner Cameron Smith has welcomed a weekend showdown Adam Scott after the pair lived up to their billing with solid opening rounds at the Australian PGA Championship.
Scott, a two-time Australian PGA champion, got his first Australian tournament in three years off to a flyer with a five-under-par 66 at Royal Queensland. Scott played with Smith, who finished two shots back with a tidy three-under 68, and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox (72, one over). Min Woo Lee, Jason Scrivener and John Lyras shared the first-round lead at six under.
In the first round of the new DP World Tour (European Tour) season, talented young Queenslander Maverick Antcliff and China’s Yan Wei Liu (67) were four under with Smith at three under.
“Conditions couldn’t have been better and you know you want to take advantage of those morning rounds,” Scott said after his round. “Overall there was some good solid play for me. A couple of squirrely shots on the back nine but I’m I’m very pleased with that.”
Scott putted beautifully on Thursday, needing just 25 putts to get round Royal Queensland’s tricky greens. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, racked up seven birdies and only two bogeys. It was impressive showing despite not playing competitive golf for a month.
“I did a little work last week on it,” Scott said of a trip to Dubai en route to Australia. “When I got here I instantly felt like I had a good feel for how the greens are rolling.”
Smith, who won three PGA Tour events and a LIV Golf event, said he didn’t feel any expectations to play well in front of the home crowd, but was happy with a solid three under start to the Australian PGA, which he he won in 2017 and 2018.
“I hope there’s not any expectations for people,” Smith said. “I’m here to try and play my best golf but sometimes you play your best golf and finish 20th. I went out there and did what I had to do.”
Smith drew a large crowd despite the 6am tee time. A gallery of several thousand fans surrounded his group, wanting to get a glimpse of the Brisbane native who won the 150th Open at St Andrews this year. Smith has been showing off the Open’s claret jug all around Brisbane and even received the keys to the city of Brisbane this week.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed [the festivities] but it for sure has been long,” he said. “I had yesterday afternoon off; I couldn’t wait to get home and have a big nap. So, I did that and had a good sleep last night. I’ll have another afternoon off, get another good rest, teeing off a little bit later [in Friday’s second round] so hopefully the brain and the body are working and we can go out there and try and chase them down.”
Smith said he would relish the chance to play against his idol Scott, the 2013 Masters winner and former world No.1, on Sunday if both stay in contention.
“Scotty was playing really nice; he’s coming into form the old fella,” Smith said of the 42-year-old. “He might be hard to chase down over the weekend. “Yeah, I’d like it. I haven’t done that yet with Scotty,” Smith added. Smith went toe-to-toe with Marc Leishman in the final round of Smith’s 2018 Australian PGA win but has never gone up against Scott in the final round of a big event.
“I’ve had one with Leish, that was good fun, “it would be epic; Scotty is one of the best golfers ever, so it would be a good one.”