Smith leads by two at Aussie Am

Cameron Smith has fired an opening 6-under-par 66 around Woodlands Golf Club following the first round of the Australian Amateur Stroke Championships in Melbourne for a two stroke advantage over his nearest rivals, Vaughan McCall and John Yim.

Yim fired a 4-under-par 68 at Victoria Golf Club and McCall scoring a 68 around Woodlands. Tim Frazer, Tim Hart, Michael Williams and Ryan Woodward are currently in a tie for 4th position following opening rounds of 3-under-par 69.

Winner of last week's Riversdale Cup, Nathan Holman, was able to get his Australian Amateur champaign underway with an impressive 2-under-par round at his home club, Woodlands, to be in a tie for 8th to be four behind Smith.

"The course was set up a lot harder than normal," said Holman, who's being based at Woodlands during his formative years as an amateur.

"It's not a long course, but you have to think your way around and where they had the pins today was certainly challenging."

Tim Hart, winner a fortnight ago at the Federal Amateur agreed with the challenge the layout at Woodland dished out to the field during today's opening round and appreciates the necessity to remain patient in an event like the Australian Amateur.

"It was tricky out there," said Hart following a 3-under-par opening round to be three from the leader Smith.

"It made you think about how to score and that's a good thing. You know that you have to post a score and with that you have to be patient out there. This is a long tournament and position after the first two rounds is everything towards making the match play section on Monday."

The leading 75 players and ties after tomorrow's second round will make the cut for the final two stroke rounds for the Silver Medal of the championship for the lowest 72 hole round total. The top 32 remain alive, making the elimination match-play rounds starting Monday at Victoria Golf Club.

"You obviously want to be in the mix leading into the matchplay," says Holman.

"After Riversdale, I feel my game is there and it's a matter of keeping the big scores off your card. I'd love to win the stroke event, but the Amateur is the main prize that we're all after."

As with any opening round in a main amateur event, causalities arise and today there was plenty who'd had the opening round that they'd rather forget.

Brett Drewitt, who comes off the gutting experience of letting slip a title at the Riversdale Cup after carding three bogies in the closing four holes to miss the playoff between Stieger and Holman by a stroke, carded a 3-over-par 75 at Woodlands and is in danger of missing the cut as he sits at 70th position and on the bubble towards disaster. Drewitt will need to produce a stellar round tomorrow at Victoria and he's a player capable of fighting his way back into contention to make the match play segment, where should he make the desired top 32 on Friday, based on his international matchplay record, Drewitt will be exceptionally slippery and dangerous.

Similarly, it would fitting for Drewitt to win a main stroke event like the Australian Amateur Stroke title and put to rest the issue as to his capacity to claim a main amateur stroke event, a title that's eluded his trophy cabinet to date despite being close on numerous occasions. Drewitt will need to make his move like a number of other marque players in tomorrow's second round to remain effective at these Australian Amateur Championships.

The list of overage performances during today's first round were endless.

Jake Higginbottom opened with a 5-over-par, 77, to be in a tie for 103rd position. Michael Smyth, winner of the 2009 NSW Amateur Championship, was another to card a 77, while Brody Watt the 2011 Lake Macquarie Amateur champion, opened with an 80 to be in a tie for 157th position.

Rory Bourke, who played stellar golf in the recent Ashes Series in Sydney, opened with a disappointing 6-over-par, 78, and would be looking to improve on his score tomorrow at Victoria Golf Club. As for the 2007 Lake Macquarie Amateur Champion, Blake McGrory, his 8-over-par, 80, at Woodlands gives him plenty of work ahead to make the weekend.

They all will need to produce stellar second rounds to make the weekend top 75 and ties, otherwise it will be a lost opportunity for some of our most promising amateur players who have so far failed to fire on all cylinders during the business end of the Australian amateur season both at the Riversdale Cup and this Australian Amateur in the home of golf, Melbourne. All are class players and it will be disappointing not to see their likes not making the weekend following tomorrow's 36 hole cut.

New Zealand's Ben Campbell continues to play his way into another main amateur tournament, opening with a 1-under-par 71 to be in a tie for 12th position and safely within the cut range, as has Daniel Bringolf after his opening even par 72 to be in a tie for 19th position, along with Matt Stieger, who fought bravely against Nathan Holman on Monday at during the play-off at the Riversdale Cup.

Campbell will certainly need to keep his putter in check if he's to challenge for this title after a disappointing display at Riversdale on Monday where he lead another main amateur event into the final day but was unable to get across the line.

Campbell is talent of the highest order and he remains one of my favourites at these championships provided he can deal with that final day issue of getting the job done and dusted, which he needs to do soon so as to cement his position on the world amateur golfing stage before heading to the US later in the year. At present there's being too many near misses for the 19-year-old talent and Campbell needs to make a statement soon so as to establish his creditability as one of the world's best amateurs, which is what Campbell is.

It would not surprise me to see the 2010 runner-up at these championships go that one better this year and claim a main Australian amateur title. It's a title that's eluded the Kiwi to date, but one that's richly deserved for a young gun that's bound to make his mark on the world golfing stage in years to come as he progresses to the professional ranks which is a matter beyond question.

US based Bryden MacPherson opened with a 1-over-par 73 around Woodlands to be currently in a tie for 34th position in one of his rare appearances back in Australia after he moved to play the US Collegiate system last year. MacPherson's current status in the US remains questionable as to whether he'll remain in the tough US Collegiate system, yet despite this the 2009 Australian and New Zealand Amateur Stroke champion is a player to follow in these championships. I've always being impressed with MacPherson's approach to the game and it will be interesting to see how he responds to being back in Melbourne and playing in arguably the biggest amateur event in the country.

At present Cameron Smith has the benefit of a two stroke advantage at this Australian Amateur Stroke championship.

Smith has won virtually every event there is to win as a junior and his progression into the main amateur events has been very impressive with a runner-up finish at the Lake Macquarie Amateur, a top-15 finish at the Queensland PGA Championship and Riversdale Cup. He's cutting his teeth well in the main amateur rankings and it's no surprise to see the Queenslander leading the Australian Amateur Stroke championship after the opening round.

I'll go as far as saying that Smith could do a wire to wire victory in Melbourne this week, as he's certainly got the game and mentality to pull this title off despite his junior years. Then again predictions of this nature are fraught with danger, especially with the like of Holman, MacPherson, Campbell, Drewitt, Hart and Stieger in the mix and playing some stellar golf leading into these championships.

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