Date: February 12, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Smith, Ruffels lead Aussie charge at Pebble

Cam Smith’s birdie barrage heads an inspired Aussie charge in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Smith, who played on the Monterey Peninsula course, carded seven superb birdies in his opening 13 holes on the par-71 layout, made two important one-putt pars on the closing two holes to sign for a sizzling seven-under-par 64.

The score left him just one behind American leader Chez Reavie, another to have played at Monterey, who carved out five birdies and an eagle on the back nine to finish at eight under the card.

But there was plenty of green and gold support on the leaderboard for Smith, with no fewer than seven Aussies in the top 29 and, amazingly, five in the top 16.

That support cast was led by Rhein Gibson and Ryan Ruffels in just his second tournament as a professional.

Gibson showed no signs of what lay ahead when he turned at Spyglass Hill in one under. But four blemish-free back-nine birdies paved the way for a T15 finish at -5.

Ruffels, 17, was in the last group out at Pebble Beach, but remained patient throughout a long afternoon.

He started hot and was four under through five holes until a double-bogey on the ninth threatened to derail his round.

But the Golf Australia rookie squad member, playing on invitation, made three birdies on the back nine including one after a spectacular bunker shot to 40cm on the last hole.

Ruffels also played a superb approach to the ocean-side 10th green to a tough pin cut far right from where he calmly slotted a 1.5m birdie to settle his nerves after his only blemish.

Emirates Australian Open champion Matt Jones peeled off six straight birdies at one point in his round, but mixed in two bogeys and a double en route to a -4 finish at Pebble Beach.

He was joined on that scored by Texas-based Steve Bowditch who was equally entertaining with seven birdies, including four in five holes around the turn and two in a row to finish his round at Pebble.

The rejuvenated Aaron Baddeley fired -3 at Spyglass Hill, while evergreen Greg Chalmers matched that mark at Monterey, giving the Aussie contingent plenty to cheer at all three courses of the fabled event.

Jason Day was not fantastic early, going out one over at Spyglass after starting on the back nine, but he carded two inward birdies to finish one under.

Jarrod Lyle had a bit of everything in an even-par 72 at Spyglass, his round containing an eagle, four birdies, four bogeys and a double. Importantly, though, he was three under in his final eight holes.

Geoff Ogilvy (+2), Rod Pampling (+3) and Cam Percy (+4) all left themselves with work to do after playing their opening rounds at Spyglass Hill.