A pleased Travis Smyth feels he has “set himself up” for a charge at the Asia-Pacific Amateur title, after an impressive opening round 66 at the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club in Hong Kong.
Six birdies and two bogeys made up the Woolongong golfer’s round, who is four shots back of Chinese leader Cheng Jin, who fired a course record 62.
Fellow Aussies Ryan Ruffels and Cameron Davis came in at 1-under par, and are seven back of the lead.
Playing one of the biggest events of his amateur career, Smyth said he played one of the most comfortable rounds he’s ever played, making the most of the relatively benign conditions that morning.
“I just hit it really straight, my course management was good and I felt like nothing could really go wrong,” said Smyth.
“It was a pressure free type of round. I took advantage of the holes you’d want to birdie, and I putted really well, so that took a lot of pressure off.”
Smyth credited his prowess on the greens to his caddy, who Smyth said was a Hong Kong local who he didn’t expect to know much about golf.
“I think nine holes in he started to get a bit more comfortable with me and he started following me around on the greens,” said Smyth.
“He just threw in a few calls here and there, and I agreed with him and I holed a few putts”
So impressed was the amateur golfer, that he went out of his way to pay extra for his expenses, on top of his usual fee, while sorting him out with some golf gear.
“I gave him a bit of a tip and some balls too."
“He lives 45 minutes away, and I don’t know how much petrol is here but I’ll cover his petrol for sure. He was much better than someone you normally get just to carry your bag.”
Fellow NSW golfer Cameron Davis was much less comfortable on the greens during his round of 69.
“I couldn’t make a putt really,” said Davis
“I kept creating opportunities but I couldn’t get the ball in the hole. I think I under-read 90% of my putts and over-read 5% — and the other one or two I made.”
With David and Ruffels seven shots back, the pair agree that the wind forecast for this weekend may help them get back into the pack.
“The wind won’t bother me too much as I’m hitting the ball well. If I can get my putts going I’ll be fine.” said Davis, while Ryan Ruffels echoed these thoughts.
“Even at seven shots back, I feel like I’m almost within range,” said the Victorian.
“It’s going to be hard to hold a lead when the wind hits the fifties. If I can shoot something in the mid-sixties tomorrow and give myself a sniff, the windy conditions will favour us.”
Ruffels had the honour to play with leader Jin Cheng, whose round of 62 beat the previous mark by two shots.
“He was flawless. I think he shot 8-under with 31 putts, so his ball striking was pretty spectacular,” said Ruffels, who fought back to 1-under after sitting 3-over par through eight holes.
“Today I just couldn’t get it going, but to to eagle the 18th (Ruffel’s ninth hole of the day) was really good. I'm proud of myself for fighting back.”