A rust-free Cameron Smith shapes as the best chance of ending a 14-year Aussie drought at Hilton Head as the PGA TOUR continues with the RBC Heritage at Harbor Town Golf Links.
Four Aussies and Kiwi Danny Lee are entered at Harbour Town that has a history of Australian winners dating back to Graham Marsh in 1977 and where growing up playing in windy conditions is a decided advantage.
Smith made his first appearance at Hilton Head in 2015 and showed an instant affinity with the golf course, a pair of 67s across the weekend taking him to a tie for 15th and a four-round total of 9-undr par.
Up until last year’s missed cut Smith had played all four rounds in each of his previous three visits to Harbour Town, coming into this week with a scoring average of 69.93 from 14 previous rounds.
The Sony Open champion in January, Smith missed the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial last week, in large part to a second shot finding the water at the par-4 ninth in the second – his last of the day – that led to a double bogey and finishing two shots shy of the cut line.
Finding the fairways at Colonial was something of an issue, a problem that continues to plague Smith as he currently sits 166th on the PGA TOUR with a driving accuracy percentage of 57.35 per cent for the season.
The last Australian to win at Harbour Town was Aaron Baddeley in 2006, the first of his four PGA TOUR titles to date.
Fresh from a humble dad-brag to son Jeremiah after making an ace at Whisper Rock Golf Club a week ago and having welcomed a sixth child into the family in February, Baddeley returns for his first tournament since the cancellation of The Players Championship on March 12.
He does so at a venue with many happy memories, not only the site of his breakthrough tour win but a venue where he also finished runner-up in 2008 and been top-15 on three further occasions.
The only Australian to make the cut in the Tour’s return last week, Matt Jones has not played Harbour Town since 2016 while Jason Day also heads back to Hilton Head after a four-year hiatus, finishing top 30 in four of his previous five appearances.
The Korn Ferry Tour stays in Florida and starts a day earlier than normal this week, six Australians taking part in The King & Bear Classic at World Golf Village at a course co-designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Jamie Arnold comes in full of confidence after posting the low round of the week in last week’s Korn Ferry Tour Challenge and where he was the only Aussie to play in all four rounds.
Round 1 Tee Times
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina
8.45pm* Aaron Baddeley, Doc Redman
9.18pm Cameron Smith, Kevin Tway, Sergio Garcia
9.51pm* Jason Day, Nate Lashley, Bubba Watson
2.21am Danny Lee, Sepp Straka, Christiaan Bezuidenhout
4am Matt Jones, Jhonattan Vegas, Kevin Streelman
Past Australian champions: Graham Marsh (1977), Greg Norman (1988), Peter Lonard (2005), Aaron Baddeley (2006)
Top Aussie prediction: Cameron Smith
TV schedule: 6am-9am Friday and Saturday; 3am-8am Sunday and Monday on Fox Sports 503
Korn Ferry Tour
The King & Bear Classic at World Golf Village
The King & Bear Course at WGV, St Augustine, Florida
9pm* Brett Coletta, Tyson Alexander, John VanDerLaan
10.03pm Curtis Luck, Justin Lower, Jimmy Stanger
10.03pm* Ryan Ruffels, Dawie van der Walt, Wade Binfield
10.13pm* Tim Wilkinson, Joey Garber, James Hahn
10.34pm Jamie Arnold, Sebastian Cappelen, Dan McCarthy
2.25am Brett Drewitt, Robert Allenby, Zecheng Dou
Past Australian champions: Inaugural event
Top Aussie prediction: Brett Drewitt
* Starting from 10th tee