For all his optimism, Cameron Smith may need to throw caution to the wind to avoid the humiliation of missing consecutive cuts at the two flagship tournaments of the Australian summer.
After flopping at last week’s PGA Championship in front of his beloved Brisbane home fans, Smith is again playing catch-up following a ho-hum first round at the Australian Open in Sydney.
The 2022 British Open champion, the highest-ranked player in the 156-strong men’s field, is eight shots behind fellow PGA Tour star Cam Davis after Thursday’s one-under 71 start at The Lakes.
Smith dunked two balls in the water but is drawing only on the positives after saving par on both occasions to at least finish in red numbers after his Brisbane blow-out.
“There’s definitely something to build on there, for sure,” he said.
“I didn’t feel as anxious and uncomfortable. There’s a couple of really tough shots out there, particularly tee shots, so it was good to just commit.”
Despite giving his rivals a head start for the second week running, Smith is confident he can climb the leaderboard on Friday, even when he tees off in the traditionally tougher and windier conditions at The Australian.
“”You don’t want to get too far away,” he said, looking forward to day two.
“But I’ve played pretty well around ‘the Aussie’ in the past. It’s another place where I feel really comfortable.
“I just need to clean up that longer (iron) stuff; I put so much pressure on my putter. I think it’ll be a good day.”
Teenage amateur Rachel Lee will enter the second round as a shock co-leader of the women’s event after opening with a six-under 67 despite almost missing her tee time.
“I thought I was at 8.38am and not 8.28am and I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t do that again,” said the 16-year-old Endeavour Sports High student who skipped school to make her Open debut.
“I was putting and my coach says, ‘Rachel, you’re on the tee’. So I just ran out there.”
Lee shares the women’s lead with American Jenny Shin, while former world No.1 Jiyai Shin is one stroke off the pace,
South Africa’s defending champion Ashleigh Buhai is tied for fourth with local hope Steph Kyriacou, while pre-tournament favourite Minjee Lee is sharing sixth at three under.