Cameron Smith eight shots behind countryman Cameron Davis after round one of Australian Open; Scotland's Connor Syme two strokes off 18-hole leader Davis; teenager Rachel Lee co-leads women's event; watch round two from 1am, Friday, Sky Sports Golf
Thursday 30 November 2023 12:14, UK
Local boy and 2017 champion Cameron Davis leads the ISPS HANDA Australian Open in Sydney after round one with countryman Cameron Smith eight shots off the pace.
Davis notched seven birdies and an eagle during an immaculate nine-under-par 63 at The Lakes Golf Club as he made the most of going out in calm morning conditions.
The world No 43 matched John Senden's course record from 2011 but his round did not class as a record with preferred lies permitted after heavy rain on Wednesday.
Davis is one stroke clear of American Patrick Rodgers and two ahead of fellow Australian Hayden Hopewell and Scotland's Connor Syme, with the latter carding eight birdies - including at 17 and 18 - and a sole bogey.
Davis - a one-time winner on the PGA Tour, at the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic - said: "It was a good round of golf. It was awesome to get off to a good start and keep it going throughout the whole round.
"There are not many better ways to start off your national open, so I am very happy. It was awesome to see how many people turned up, so it was a lot of fun."
Smith, however, is well back on one under after shooting 71, with the 2022 Open champion mixing four birdies with three bogeys and finding the water twice across his opening five holes.
Smith missed the cut by nine shots at last week's Australian PGA Championship in Queensland as he made a poor defence of his title, with his early exit leaving him on the brink of tears.
The 30-year-old may now need a strong Friday in Sydney to make the weekend at the Australian Open but feels he is improving.
Smith said: "There's definitely something to build on. I didn't feel as anxious and uncomfortable. I hit a couple in the water, but it was nice to feel that commitment and actually try and hit the right shot.
"There was plenty of good out of today. If get on a bit of a roll and hit the greens couple of times in a row, I think the putter will start to free up and some putts will go in."
Min Woo Lee, who is eyeing back-to-back wins after triumphing at the Australian PGA Championship, shot a five-under 67, but defending Australian Open champion Adrian Meronk stuttered to a two-over round, recording two bogeys and a double around a pair of birdies.
The Australian Open forms part of the Open Qualifying Series with the top three finishers not currently exempt for the 152nd Open Championship at Troon next summer to reach that major.
Smith, Lee, Meronk, Robert MacIntyre, Michael Hendry, Daniel Hillier, Ryo Hisatsune and amateur Jasper Stubbs are the eight players in the field to have already secured their Open spots.
The women's event is co-led by 16-year-old Australian amateur Rachel Lee, who shot a six-under 67 to sit at the top of the standings with Jenny Shin.
Schoolgirl Lee got her start time mixed up and had to dash to the first tee but that did not hinder her as she bagged eight birdies, including two back-to-back at 17 and 18 while concluding her round in teeming rain.
The youngster, who qualified for this event on Monday, said: "I thought I was at 8.38 and not 8.28 and I've learned my lesson. I won't do that again. I was putting and my coach says, 'you're on the tee'. So I just ran out there.
"Am I leading the Australian Open? Oh, honestly I never thought that (was possible). Hopefully I can do that for the next three days."
Watch round two of the ISPS HANDA Australian Open live on Sky Sports Golf from 1am on Friday. Coverage picks up on Sky Sports Main Event at 4.30am. Stream the DP World Tour, PGA Tour and more golf with NOW.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland