Cameron Smith with caddy Sam Pinfold today at Liberty National. Image: Getty
Cameron Smith doesn't want to go home. The Queenslander is on the fringes of the playoff series of the US PGA Tour, but his first round 67 at The Northern Trust in Liberty National today allows him to go for at least another week.
Smith, 25, made five birdies and only one bogey with a three-putt at the par-four third hole.
He was the best of the Australians in a draw for the 17th as the three-tournament swing to the winner of the seasonal FedEx Cup race began in New Jersey.
Smith is in 79th place on the list of points starting this week, and only the top 70 will advance to the BMW Championship in Medinah next week.
The other Aussie to get up was New South Welshman Matt Jones, who needs a great week at Liberty National to survive the second round, ranked 115th. But Jones carded an opening 67 to get himself in a good position.
Of the other Australians, Adam Scott started with a nice 68, Jason Day played 72 and Marc Leishman fought back from a poor front nine to post 73. Leishman, who made a triple bogey on the ninth, is confirmed for the Tour Champinship for the top 30 players in Atlanta in two weeks.
Aaron Baddeley withdrew after four holes with an injury and his season is over, although he has the consolation prize of a playing card for next season based on his game in 2019.
The American Troy Merritt is the leader in the first round at 62, a shot ahead of number 2 Dustin Johnson at 63 on a day when the course was soft, the score low and many darts were thrown.
The score placed a perspective on the poor start of the former Tiger Tiger world number 1, who again complained about back stiffness in the run-up, hardly practiced and started with a four-over par 75 with five bogeys and a double bogey.
The situation of Woods is problematic; he is not in the top eight of Americans in the presidential cup standings in Royal Melbourne in December, and unless he takes shape quickly, he may have to decide as captain if he will play as a discretionary selection.
When he won the Masters in April, after his victory at the Tour Championship at the end of last year, it was generally thought that he would present as the power he used to be. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.