Cameron Smith in action today – photo PGA of America Maddie Meyer

Cameron Smith and Lucas Herbert, playing at opposite ends of the draw, head the nine Australasians at the completion of the opening round of the PGA Championsuip at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa Oklahoma.

Hebert’s round, played in the afternoon conditions, was particularly impressive given the more breezy conditions that buffeted the par 70 layout in the latter half of the day and if not for two late bogeys he would have been the star of the opening day for players from our region.

After an opening nine of 2 under 33, Herbert got within one of the early leader Rory McIlroy’s 5 under round of 65 before a bogey at the 15th and again at the 18th saw him finish the day in a share of 7th with Smith and others and three behind McIlroy.

Smith’s round of 68 has him in a share of but it will be the five birdies in his first seven holes on the way in that was so impressive. a bogey at his 17th hole (he started at the 10th) put a little bit of a dampener on what was a great recovery but he is well positioned as the event heads into day two.

“I guess it did kind of change there; just a little bit of a mental reset,” said Smith referring to the chnage once he hit the 10th tee. “I felt as though I had played some pretty good golf on my front nine, but unfortunately a couple times with gusts of wind and stuff like that, yeah, you can make some pretty quick bogeys and doubles around here if you’re not careful.

“Yeah, just took that into account, a quick mental reset, and I knew I was hitting the ball well; just need to go out there and do it.”

Despite his early tee time Smith played in the high humidity prevalent in Tulsa and commented on that. “It’s like a summer’s morning in Brisbane. It’s actually quite nice, quite a nice change. I love playing in this stuff. I’ve felt like we’ve played in cold the last six months, so I’m ready for summer.”

Herbert, playing his 4th PGA Championship but with a best of 71st previously, began his round more than six hours after Smith and, in the buffeting winds, birdied three of his first five holes before a bogey at his 6th hole saw him turn in 33.

He built on that when he birdied the 10th and although he bogeyed the 11th, he chipped in for birdie at the 12th to move within two of the lead and then birdied the par 5 5th (his 14th hole) to move within one.

He would, though, bogey the 6th and 9th holes to finish his round but it was an impressive start especially given the more demanding afternoon conditions.

“Yeah, definitely would have taken 2-under at the start of the day,” said Herbert when asked to assess his round.

“This place is not easy. Obviously it can get pretty squirrelly out there with the wind. Yeah, I mean, I feel kind of comfortable here. This reminds me of some golf back home on the Sand Belt, Peninsula Kingswood for the guys in Australia listening.

“Has that very similar feel about it with the run-offs around the greens and just the bunkering that the hole sort of — how open a lot of the golf course is. You’ve got fairways that kind of blend into other fairways and bunkers that kind of come into play on multiple holes. It has that Australian feel about it in a way, even though the grass is a little different.

“You know, yeah, it’s just made me comfortable. I’ve played enough of these major championships now where I feel like I know what it is that I need to do to play well. I haven’t been able to play the way I would have liked in the majors I’ve played so far, but feel like I’ve got more of an understanding of what I need to do to have a chance to compete on Sunday.”


Lucas Herbert – photo PGA of America Darren Carroll

Of the other nine Australasians there were mixed results.

New Zealand’s Ryan Fox continued his impressive recent form in Europe by opening with a round of 70 to be tied for 27th after four birdies and four bogeys.

Jason Day is tied for 38th after his round of 71, Cameron Davis and Marc Leishman both had rounds of 72, Matt Jones and Min Woo Lee 73 and Adam Scott 77 including a quadruple bogey at the 17th.

The leader, McIlroy, picked up where he left off in his last major when a final round of 64 at Augusta National saw him finish runner-up behind Scottie Scheffler at the Masters.

The two time PGA Champion reached 6 under par before two late bogeys, then a birdie at the last saw him open with his round of 5 under 65.

“Yeah, look, it was a great start to the tournament,” said McIlroy. “I’ve been playing well coming in here. I’ve been carrying some good form. Obviously I took a lot from that last round at Augusta, played well up in D.C. at the Wells Fargo there, and played good in the practice rounds earlier this week.

“I think when your game is feeling like that, it’s just a matter of going out there and really sticking to your game plan, executing as well as you possibly can, and just sort of staying in your own little world. I did that really well today. It was nice to get off to that good start and sorta keep it going.

“I feel like this course, it lets you be pretty aggressive off the tee if you want to be, so I hit quite a lot of drivers out there and took advantage of my length and finished that off with some nice iron play and some nice putting.”

SCORES


The leader Rory McIlroy hits his approach to the 18th today – photo Darren Carrol PGA of America