Mr Smith Goes To Thailand
Smith, 39, fired a 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead over his countryman, who opened in 66. 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie carded a 5-under-par 65 to finish the first round two off the lead, while pre-tournament favorite Tiger Woods resides in a six-way tie for fourth place after shooting 68.
This is the first time in two years Smith has posted a 65. The previous occasion was the first round of the 1998 Australasian Tour Championship. Just as he does this week, Smith led the '98 Tour Championship by a single shot after day one; however, he isn't looking for a repeat performance - Smith finished the tournament tied for 21st following rounds of 76-69-76.
But at least for one day the 16-year veteran is once again atop the leaderboard - and leading the world's No. 1 player, to boot.
'I'm very surprised to be here,' said Smith, who has won twice on both the Australasian and Japanese Tours. 'I was up at 5 a.m., and it was all a bit early for me but it's the best time to play here in the heat. It got sticky in the end, so it's good to capitalize on the early start when you have the opportunity.'
By choice, Smith has only played in seven events since March. On the other hand, Gow has been hard at work earning his PGA Tour card. The recently turned 30-year-old finished ninth on the 2000 Buy.Com Tour to secure his 2001 U.S. playing privileges.
'After qualifying for the U.S. PGA Tour, I am playing here with the attitude that there is nothing to lose,' said Gow, who recorded four straight birdies beginning at the 11th. 'There is no pressure on me. I always play as hard as I can and try and make as many birdies as possible.'
Woods made six birdies on Thursday, including three over his final seven holes. The 1998 Johnnie Walker champion did card a pair of bogeys on the front nine, but his opening 68 marked his 52nd consecutive round at par or better.
'It could have been a little lower,' Woods said. 'I went out there to try and hit fairways and greens and I gave myself a couple of good chances there that I missed. It was a solid start, score wise, but I didn't really feel like I was playing that great.'
Defending champion Michael Campbell is six shots off the first-round lead. Playing alongside Woods, Campbell carded a 1-under-par 71 to tie, among others, Nick Faldo for 33rd position.
Jesper Parnevik is seven back after opening in even-par 72. Spaniard Sergio Garcia was 2-under-par through five holes, but bogeyed the 6th, double-bogeyed the 7th and posted a quadruple-bogey eight at the 11th en route to a 2-over-par 74.
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.
Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open
JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.
Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.
''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''
Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 5: Dec. 12
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open
Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.
Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.
Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.
The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.