03 Sep 2021 | Professional golf |

Smith's setback in chase for FedEx Cup glory

by PGA of Australia

Cameron Smith during the first round of the Tour Championship.
Cameron Smith is still in the hunt for the FedEx Cup crown despite an opening day setback. Photo: Getty.

By Tony Webeck

Cameron Smith has fallen a stroke further back in his pursuit of FedEx Cup glory after one false swing punctuated an otherwise strong start to the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.

Three birdies in his opening seven holes brought Smith to within three strokes of leader Patrick Cantlay but a double bogey at the par-3 15th was a setback that leaves him six strokes adrift in a tie for fifth with three rounds left to play.

A birdie at the par-5 finishing hole was Smith’s only one of the back nine in a round of 2-under 68 that will see him start the second round at 7-under and six shots behind Cantlay (67) and three four back of Jon Rahm (65).

Starting the Tour Championship at 5-under par and in fifth position in the FedEx Cup standings, Smith rolled in a putt for birdie from 17 feet at the second hole and followed it up with birdies from eight and 11 feet at the fifth and seventh holes respectively to progress up the leaderboard.

He made a crucial par save from 20 feet after coming up short at the par-3 11th but there was no salvaging a three when the Queenslander’s tee shot at the intimidating par-3 15th sailed left and into the water.

Calling on his sublime short game Smith played a pitch from the drop zone to inside eight feet but missed the putt for bogey to drop two shots to 6-under and six off the lead.

“It got a little bit away from me at the end,” Smith conceded.

“I didn’t hit very many good shots coming in. I was out of position a lot off the tee on the back nine and kind of had to scramble my way around.

“I did a pretty good job of it, but I would have rather have had another nine like the front nine.”

Admitting that it is an odd feeling to start the first round five strokes off the lead, Smith believes he will now be able to recalibrate and focus on reeling in the six-stroke deficit in the final three rounds of the season.

“It’s a little bit strange, but after today we all forget about it and we’re ready to go the next three days,” said Smith.

“Does your head in a little bit but it is what it is.

“You just got to treat it as you’re five shots behind after one round.

“You just got to go out there and play your best golf and hopefully it all works out.”

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