A pair of gritty opening day performances from Queenslanders Cam Smith and Jason Day have kept Australian hopes of winning The Open alive.
Both men took to Royal Portrush in the thick of the opening round’s worst conditions but battled all day to walk off Royal Portrush’s testing links with just one bogey apiece and a 1-under-70 to their name.
They’ll enter Friday’s second round four back of outright leader JB Holmes but with their dreams of lifting the Claret Jug still in tact, more than can be said for many of golf’s biggest stars.
“That’s probably where my game should be. I felt as though I left a couple out there, even,” Smith said.
“I had a few putts that went over the edge so everything was pretty solid.
“Just knowing that I can stand over a shot and not have a million thoughts going through my head, I've just got a bit of a clearer mind.”
Smith’s only dropped shot came on the uphill par-4 1st as the heaviest of the morning’s rain began to tumble.
But the Queenslander knuckled down from that point, taking advantage of the par-5 2nd for birdie before a gutsy string of seven straight pars.
Another birdie at 10 saw Smith join Day as the only Australians to reach the red numbers on the day before the World No.42 produced another run of eight pars on the way back to the clubhouse.
“It seemed like one second it was calm and hot and the next second it was cold and windy. We had a bit of everything today,” Smith said.
“It was nice that I made a couple of good saves through the middle there to keep the momentum going. I felt as though I had enough in the bag to make some birdies, they just didnt really drop.”
Despite their identical returns, if Smith and Day have dinner reservations together tonight there might be very different moods at the table, with former World No.1 Day’s only dropped shot coming on 18.
It was a rock solid start to The Open for Day, the World No.18 making birdie at the downhill par-4 5th before picking up another stroke on 9.
A series of solid up-and-downs kept him within striking distance of the top 10 before a pulled 3-wood off the 18th tee set up a long approach shot into the par-4 and eventually a closing bogey.
Fellow Queenslander Jake McLeod was the next best of the Australians, the major debutant carding a 5-over-76 to stay in touch with the cut line at Royal Portrush.
Warrnambool’s Marc Leishman drew on all his experience in the testing conditions but could only muster an opening 7-over-78, the Victorian bitterly frustrated with his efforts.
“Just a frustrating one, the hole looked very small,” Leishman said.
“I actually drove it good enough to have a really good score and normally the strength of my game is my irons and they were pretty pitiful today to be honest.”
“I deserved a lot of the stuff I got.”
Meanwhile it was a tough initiation to major championship golf for 28-year-old Dimi Papadatos.
The New South Welshman was another to play the majority of his round in the day’s worst conditions, eventually signing for a 12-over 83 to be near the tail of the field.
Papadatos won’t have to wait long for redemption at Royal Portrush, he’s the first Australian on course tomorrow, off at 6:57am local time (3:57pm AEST) on Friday.
McLeod will be two groups further back, off at 7:19am local time (4:19 AEST).
Earlier, Adam Scott carded a 7-over 78 to all but eliminate himself from the weekend’s action on a day where not much fell his way.