Smith’s record leads 150th Open – PGA of Australia
Four other Australians are in the top 12 as Smith’s 64 saw him beat the previous mark by a stroke and it was also the lowest round of the day after Adam Scott set an impressive mark with a 65 to break into the top ten.
The day belonged to Australia with Min Woo Lee and Lucas Herbert also in the top 12 at six under for the tournament, and our country’s two highest ranked male players took it upon themselves to light up the Old Course.
Scott nearly knocked the house down with a long-range eagle putt that nearly fell at 18 as Smith waited to start from first, and it looked like the 2013 Masters had tagged his fellow Queenslander to take over as as chief artist. .
The world number six happily accepted the responsibility and immediately got to work with a birdie hat trick to get things started, which included a 47-footer at first to keep the place in the saddle.
“Obviously I got off to a really good start,” Smith said. “And it’s very easy to go on, get on the front foot and maybe try to hit shots that are a little too aggressive. But I just stayed patient and made some really nice putts.
He kept the ball rolling with back-to-back streaks at seven and eight, and ten more, but it was another monster putt at the par-5 14th that drew fans to see him in action.
Rumors had started around the course that Rory McIlroy’s record for lowest round of an Open at St Andrews – a 63 in 2010 – was in jeopardy as Smith displayed the kind of form that had secured him the record for 72 holes of the PGA Tour with 34 under at the Tournament of Champions in January and the Players Championship in March.
It was not to be, as he managed to make it home, but it was clear he had discovered something special at the Scottish Open last weekend – where he shot 68 and 67 Saturday and Sunday to finish tied for tenth.
“I think I played some really good golf last week. Just a little bit more pep in my step, I guess,” Smith said.
“My last tournaments before this one weren’t the best. I wasn’t really happy with the way I was playing. It’s good to have a good solid weekend before this one.
Smith’s confidence was also boosted as he unleashed his inner golf-loving kid during a practice round Wednesday with his great pals Scott and Marc Leishman.
“I think Tuesday/Wednesday was more the child coming out in me, using the big bumps and dips and stuff like that. But it’s definitely been a bit different the last few days,” he said.
“I think playing nine holes with Leish and Scotty the other day and having our picture taken on the deck was a pretty cool moment, I think, something I’ll definitely never forget. Two of my best friends now in the golf house, just having fun, having fun, it was really cool.
As for the strong performance of his compatriots with Brad Kennedy (-4), Jason Scrivener (-1) and Anthony Quayle (-1), which meant that seven Australians qualified for the weekend, Smith thinks the reason is simple.
“I think I’ve always been a very good player in difficult conditions. I think most Aussies are, for some reason. I think we are all bred to be smart golfers, sometimes off the flag. And that serves us really well, I think, in big tournaments and when the conditions get tough,” he said.
“I think a lot of Sandbelt golfers like it, using the slopes to their advantage, sometimes having a big curling putt is your best bet. And I think the Aussies will do good this week as they get firmer and faster.