Cameron Smith's PGA Championship hopes take a hit
A FLAT Cameron Smith offered no excuses for his scrappy opening round, after his quest for a historic third straight Australian PGA Championship took a big hit on Thursday.
The local hope will need to improve on Friday to even make the cut, having finished seven shots behind the clubhouse leader with a two-over 74 at Royal Pines.
He did well, however, to avoid a total blow-out after a calamitous three-hole sequence as he aimed to become the first man in more than 100 years to complete a three-peat of PGA titles.
Starting his round on the 10th, Smith turned at even par thanks to some effective scrambling and clutch putts.
But the wheels briefly fell off on the par-three second hole, with Smith missing the green and then needing two chips on his way to a double bogey.
He threw that ball into the lake in disgust, but things didn't improve as Smith struggled for energy after an impressive showing at last week's Presidents Cup.
After going right with his next tee shot, the Brisbane product had to retreat when his second effort deflected backwards off a tree, albeit luckily back on to the fairway and not into the water.
A bogey was the result, followed by another on the fourth before Smith recovered valiantly in a round that finished with a narrowly missed eagle putt on the ninth.
"The rubbish started to come there towards the end," he said.
"It was one of those days and in the end probably two over isn't that bad.
"I'm just tired, long couple of weeks, it's as easy as it's going to get out there this morning.
"It was tough, I had no idea to be honest (what went wrong), got not excuse."
Smith's playing partners performed much better on Thursday with Australasian tour order of merit leader Ryan Fox carding a three-under 69, while big-hitting American Cameron Champ (71) rounded out the marquee morning group.
Lucas Herbert is the early clubhouse leader with a five-under 67 that featured six birdies and an eagle to go with three bogeys.
Tournament favourite and 2013 winner Adam Scott will feature in the afternoon's marquee group as he chases his first tournament win since February 2016.
Nick Cullen bogeyed his last hole of the day to finish with a 68 while Nick Voke (69) dropped shots on the 17th and 18th holes to join fellow New Zealander Fox with a 69.