Smith’s unusual PGA rescue act

2024 PGA Championship - Round One
Cameron Smith fired a three-under par 68. Picture: Cristian Petersen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Cameron Smith was forced to get his feet wet with a shoes-off shot from shallow water as the Australian LIV contingent led the way at the PGA Championship in what looms as a “long week” as they try to chase down runaway leader Xander Schauffele.

Smith, the lone Australian to make the annual list of business magazine Forbes top-50 earning athletes in 2023, raking in an estimated $65m courtesy of his move to LIV, opened with a three-under 68, while his Ripper GC teammate, and special invitee Lucas Herbert, carded a two-under 69 to fly the flag at Valhalla where

American Schauffele set the pace with a stunning course-record round of nine-under 62.

Smith was saved by his putter, and his willingness to wade into the shallow waters on the seventh hole, making par from the wet lie, with a bogey after an errant drive on the par-4 fifth hole the only blemish on his card as he forecast rest to cope with what could be a gruelling three rounds to come on the tough Kentucky layout.

“I actually hit the ball quite well for probably the first 12 or 13 holes there,” Smith said.

“Kind of let go of it a little bit at the end, but everything felt really good and I managed to get a few good par saves and keep the momentum going for tomorrow.

“It’s going be a long week. I think you know that at the start of the week anyway – it’s a major week. It’s always more demanding.

“Plenty of rest this afternoon, maybe hit a few balls, clean some stuff up and get a good sleep tonight.”

Herbert, who was among the eight LIV players given surprising invitations to the year’s second major, said his round was “kind of decent but nothing was amazing” as he moved into the top 20.

“Got off to a poor start there but then caught that back up with four birdies,” he said.

“I think I holed out really well, holed some nice five footers, some sort of eight footers just to keep my momentum through the round, through the back nine and not drop any shots when I maybe struggled a bit.”

Playing in the marquee group with Tiger Woods, Adam Scott failed to make a single birdie in a one-over round of 72 that left him well off the pace.

Jason Day birdied his final hole to close out an even-par opening round while Min Woo Lee mirrored Scott, while Cam Davis had a horror start with five bogeys and a double in his opening round of seven-over 78.