Smith kicks off the rust with 71 in PGA Tour return

(Ponte Vedre, FL:) Sensational young Aussie Cameron Smith was delighted to get back to competition in posting a 1-under 71 in very hot and humid conditions in the morning half of the draw on day one of the Players Championship.

It is the 23-year old’s first event since he and Swede Jonas Blixt teamed up to win the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.

Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith holding the Zurich Classic trophy (Credit: PGA Tour)

And while victory on the TPC Louisiana course did not earn Smith or Blixt World Ranking points or the invitation to compete in next year’s Masters, it did present the opportunity to tee-up in this week’s $US10.5m event on the Pete Dye designed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Smith’s opening round was a mix of four birdies and one less bogey, which presented the Queenslander with a share of 32nd place and just four shots behind the leading duo of American William McGirt and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes.

Fellow Queenslander, Adam Scott had raced to six-under par through 16 holes but sadly double-bogeyed each of his closing two holes, including finding the water surrounding the famed 17th green, for an eventual 2-under 70.

Smith was 1-under after a birdie-bogey-birdie effort from his fourth hole but then proceeded to drop shots at his eighth and ninth holes.

He then holed a 10-foot putt at the par four 10th hole to get back to even ahead of seven straight pars before sending a booming 293-yard drive down the last, hitting his second shot from 181-yards out to 18-feet and just left of the flag and knocking in the birdie putt much to the enormous delight of those watching on.

In teeing-up in the Zurich Classic Smith was a virtual unknown but the enormous coverage of the final round in New Orleans along with Smith’s mental strength in the Monday play-off has won him a new-found fan base on golf’s greatest stage.

“I was a little bit rusty having had last week off so I didn’t hit the ball all that well,” he said.

“So given the way I hit the ball today I am pretty pleased with a 71 and to get away with that score then I feel pretty pleased.”

“And as far as the reception this week it has been a little different as many people around the course have congratulated me on my win in New Orleans, so that has been nice.”

“The good thing is that winning the Zurich Classic was a real confidence booster.”