There was a split second when Cam Smith looked vulnerable in his major championship debut today.
It didn’t last long.
The Queenslander’s entourage said he’d woken up before his debut US Open round as calm if it was a Wednesday chook run at his home Wantima Country Club.
And barring a quick slap of his putter after an uncharacteristic double-bogey on the 13th – his fourth of the day – Smith played true to script for an even-par 70 built on patience beyond his 21 years.
Smith, without any status in the United States but rapidly building a resume of impressive invitational starts, only qualified in Ohio last week.
But a great sign of his ability to keep his head in a crisis came with a 40-foot bomb for par on the 11th hole, his second, after a drive into deep rough in a mid-fairway mound.
A missed birdie chance on 12 was followed by that double-bogey on 13, but the Golf Australia rookie squad member calmly jammed in great approaches inside 1m on both 14 and 15 to right the ship.
“Yeah, I’m pumped. I started off a bit shaky … but a couple of birdies in a row that got the momentum going and held on to it pretty good for the rest of the day,” Smith said.
“I could have let that get to me, but my caddie Dan said, `Just keep at it, it’s a US Open, it happens’.
“Really, you’ve just gotta take it on the chin and keep moving forward (and) I just got on with it and did my stuff the rest of the day.”
And that’s nearly a perfect description.
He birdied the 18th, bogeyed the 2nd and otherwise parred out – a steadiness reflected in his calm post-round assessments.
“It was tough, but fair. The game plan was to make 18 pars and that was sort of how it ended up,” he said.
“I’ll keep the game plan exactly the same tomorrow and hopefully a few more putts can go in.
“But I think I’m in a pretty good spot.”
Smith said his first major championship tee shot had been nervy, but far from overwhelming.
“There weren’t too many around when we teed off (at 7am), (but) the crowds got bigger as the day went on and there were a couple of big roars and it was a pretty cool experience.”
And very cool to see the first edition of something Australian golf can get used to for many years ahead.