LIV Golf's Smith struggles as Spain rookie leads Australian PGA
Spaniard Joel Moscatel Nachshon fired a remarkable eight-under-par 63 on his DP World Tour debut on Thursday to lead the Australian PGA Championship, but defending champion Cameron Smith had a round to forget.
In front of big galleries at the Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane, the 25-year-old equalled the course record to take a one-shot lead after the first round from Australian rising star Min Woo Lee.
Ranked 1 162 in the world, Nachshon fired eight birdies, including five in a row, at the opening event of the European circuit's 2024 season.
"I just got into the rhythm," said Nachshon, who was playing at the tour's qualifying school in Spain a week ago. "But tomorrow is a new day, I just have to do my work and try to enjoy it as much as possible."
Lee was the early clubhouse leader after eight birdies and one bogey in his 64.
"I felt like I didn't leave much out there and it was a very solid round," said Lee, who has secured 2024 playing rights on the US PGA Tour.
"I putted and chipped really nicely, and then drove it really good."
Australia's John Lyras is a stroke behind Lee and one clear of a chasing pack including former Masters champion Adam Scott, Scotland's Connor Syme and Japan's Ryo Hisatsune.
But major-winner Smith, now playing on the lucrative Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, was out of sorts and has a mountain to climb to repeat his exploits of last year when he won by three shots.
He bogeyed the par-four 10th, his opening hole, and never recovered to card a two-over 73.
"It was frustrating, upsetting," said the former world No 2, who has dominated the event in recent years, winning in 2017, 2018 and 2022.
"I really couldn't get anything going."
With world-ranking points at stake, the tournament has attracted a number of overseas players as they seek a top-50 year-end finish to secure a place at next year's US Masters.
Scottish Ryder Cup star Robert MacIntyre, who finished tied 12th on debut at the Masters in 2021 and is currently ranked 56, shot a 69 in his bid to make the grade, while Poland's Adrian Meronk, ranked 48, carded a 68.