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.