TOKYO (Reuters) - Australian rookie Cameron Smith carded a flawless five-under-par 66 to take a two-stroke lead over his more illustrious rivals after the opening round of the Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship on Thursday.
The in-form 21-year-old, who earned his Asian Tour card at Qualifying School this year, drained five birdies between the 11th and 17th holes to stay clear of five players grouped in a tie for second at the Ohtone Country Club in Ibaraki Prefecture.
“I‘m feeling really good. We had a little break in the middle of the year and it’s really good to be back, fresh and competitive again,” said Smith, who has already had three top 10 finishes this season.
“I putted well today as I struggled a bit in the last couple of weeks with the putter but today was really nice and hopefully I can keep that going for the next three days.”
American David Lipsky, the current Order of Merit leader, India’s Arjun Atwal and Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng were among a group of nine players tied for seventh spot, three strokes behind the leader.
“I don’t feel like I played great today but I got around by getting an under-par score which is good,” Lipsky said after offsetting four birdies with two bogeys during his round at the par-71 course north of Tokyo.
”I hit the ball pretty poorly and I didn’t putt particularly well from long range but I holed lots of good putts and got the easy ones up and down.
“My game still feels pretty solid. Everything feels like it’s moving in the right direction.”
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien