Cameron Smith will look to make a second-round surge after enduring difficult winds to lead the Aussie charge in round one of the Open Championship at Royal St George’s Golf Club overnight.
The Champion Golfer of 2010, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen has a one-stroke lead after an opening round of 6-under 64, followed closely by another Open champion in Jordan Spieth (65) and 2017 US Open runner-up Brian Harman (65).
Harman, the American left-hander, was the first to reach five-under through just eight holes but it was Oosthuizen who ended the day on top, three straight birdies around the turn and three more at 13, 14 and 16 the highlights in a bogey-free beginning to his tournament.
Smith (69, T-32) began his first round in an afternoon wind that has troubled him throughout his career but despite spending more time than he would like in Royal St George’s gnarly rough, leant on his spectacular short game to get through relatively unscathed.
The Queenslander made 11 consecutive pars to start his championship and then made birdies at 12 and 14, a bogey at 15 his only dropped shot to go into the second round within striking distance of the front-runners.
“It was a bit scratchy at the start,” Smith conceded.
“Just awkward wind for me. That down and off to the left kind of wind has always been a struggle of mine. I knew going into the first hole that those first four holes are that wind, and to get through those four level par I thought was a pretty good effort.
“From there it was just really solid stuff, not many silly mistakes. Bogey there on 15, bit of a poor drive leaked to the right. But that’s just links golf. Hit a lot of good shots coming in and probably wanted one more, but that’s how it is.
“Took me 12 holes to make a birdie, but like I said, it was solid before that. Just the putts weren’t dropping.”
A runner-up in six Major championships – including the past two in succession – Oosthuizen admitted that he could not have asked for more to start his quest for a second Open championship.
“Probably in my mind the perfect round I could have played,” Oosthuizen said.
“I didn’t make many mistakes. When I had good opportunities for birdie, I made the putts.
“I’ve learnt over the years playing major championships that patience is the key thing.
“I was just very patient. I was trying to just hit my shots and didn’t really hit anything close enough to make birdies those first few holes, and then all of a sudden just made two good putts on eight and nine and got the ball rolling.
“It happened quickly, but you still need to put yourself in those positions. I felt definitely the last 10, 11 holes I gave myself a lot of opportunities.”
Kiwi Ryan Fox continued his love affair with links golf to lead the Australasian assault on day one with a round of two-under 68 while Lucas Herbert fought back from the worst start possible to end the day level with the card.
Emulating Greg Norman in 1993 when he made double-bogey at the opening hole on his way to a second Claret Jug, Herbert was two down after just one hole but the Irish Open champion made four birdies in five holes from the 10th to be tied for 48th.
It was a solid result given the Victorian needed a police escort to get to the course on time.
“The traffic was horrific this morning. We had to get a police escort in the end to get here and I was still really late,” said Herbert, who is playing in his second Open Championship.
“Being later than normal, sort of a bit of rush around to hit shots and get ready and feel like I was ready to go. That might not have helped with that slow start.
“Felt like I was half asleep until the back nine and then things started to kick off and got myself back into it.
“Feel like I’ve done no damage with that first round. Would’ve liked a couple less but can’t be too upset.”
Playing in his third Open, reigning PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner Brad Kennedy is in position to make the cut for the first time after a round of 1-over 71, hitting 12 of 14 fairways with two bogeys and a birdie at the par-5 14th.
“The key to playing well around this course especially is hitting the fairways and also staying out of the fairway traps, which I managed to do today,” Kennedy said.
“It’s definitely a good step to be able to hit enough fairways to give yourself some chances.
“Maybe we might get a little bit of calmness tomorrow and if we’re fortunate enough to get a few decent flags that we can go at, I think there’s a good score out there tomorrow morning.”
Playing in his first major championship, Min Woo Lee was the first of the Aussies out and found the right rough with his opening tee shot, leading to a bogey at the first.
Birdies at two, four and eight saw the 22-year-old make the turn in red figures but bogeys at 12 and 18 and a triple at the par-4 15th led to a back nine of 40 and four-over 74 on day one.
“For my first Major, I was enjoying it until I made my triple-bogey, but there’s another day that I can bring it back,” said Lee, winner of last week’s Scottish Open.
“It wasn’t actually too nerve-wracking for my first Major. If you’re well prepared, I think you should be fine.
“For my first Major I handled myself pretty good other than that one hole.”
It was a difficult day for three of Australia’s biggest names with Adam Scott (73), Marc Leishman (75) and Jason Day (75) with work to do on Friday to make the cut.
Open debutant Aaron Pike had three birdies but bogeyed the three closing holes in a round of four-over 74 while qualifier Deyen Lawson got off to a poor start on his way to a 10-over 80.