[PHOTO: Paul Lakatos/ Asian Tour]

Australia’s Travis Smyth defends his Yeangder TPC title this week without a win since tasting victory at Linkou International Golf & Country Club last year, but still enjoying the warm glow of what was his maiden victory on the Asian Tour.

The 28-year-old from the Illawarra region has been in resplendent form this year, with a best finish of third in the World City Championship in Hong Kong, one of six top-20s. In addition, he has not missed a cut in nine starts.

“It was a great boost to my confidence,” Smyth said of his win last year, which saw him beat the defending champion, Lee Chieh-po from Chinese-Taipei, by two shots.

“I have continued to play solidly, since the win. It did me a world of good. I have had a solid season; got off to good start in Saudi; I have played solid in the International Series; I played my first major this year, thanks to the Hong Kong event; had a bunch of top 10s and a lot of solid play. I am happy with where the game is at.”

That major was The Open in July – which he qualified for via his strong finish in Hong Kong – and although he failed to make it through to the weekend, he made headlines worldwide by making a hole-in-one on the new par-3 17th at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which was the first-ever ace there.

It was another memorable moment in the early days in the career of a young golfer who hopes to go far in the game.

He said: “I definitely want to win again but I am just focused on getting better, keeping doing the things I am doing, working hard on all aspects of my game, off the course as well. Hopefully, if I keep doing what I am doing, I will get more and more consistent, and contend for titles more often on Sunday.” 

He played near perfect golf to win last year, firing successive six-under par 66s over the weekend to finish 19-under.

Smyth had started the final day with a one-shot lead and proved uncatchable after he birdied four out of the first six holes to make the turn in four-under before virtually wrapping things up by making three birdies in a row from the 10th. 

With a healthy lead, a surprise double-bogey on the 15th, which were his only dropped shots of the day, was not too damaging, particularly as he responded with his final birdie of the day on the next hole.

The victory, which saw him become the first Australian to win the event, made up for narrowly failing to win the International Series England in June where he ran second, a result that earned him starts on the LIV Golf Invitational series.

“All the memories of the win have come flooding back this week,” Smyth said.

“I played nine holes and remembered every shot I hit on the back nine in the final round last year. It’s really good to be back and have no lockdown situation like last year. We are free to roam the city and go out to restaurants, so I am really looking forward to this week.

“It’s a really, really, tight course and you have to hit it really, really straight off the tee. The small greens mean you require a lot of precision with your approach shots. Putting was quite difficult. The greens are a little bit slower than what we are used to week in, week out. But the course is in great condition this year, everyone is in for a treat.”