Smith is back Down Under to play the Australian PGA Championship at the end of what has been a controversial and rollercoaster year for the talented Queenslander.
He won the Open Championship in July – his maiden major title – then a few weeks later defected from the PGA Tour to join the LIV Golf league, instantly earning hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. He was No.2 in the world at the time.
It was unclear what kind of reception he would get from Aussie fans upon returning home for the first time in three years, but Smith was welcomed home with open arms, and on Thursday was followed around Royal Queensland by a swarm of fans, some wearing “Team Smith” shirts.
He also played Wednesday’s pro-am alongside retired rugby league champion Cameron Smith, who handed his golfing namesake a Maroons State of Origin jersey.
“Obviously it’s exciting that Cam’s coming home to play off the back of the year that he’s had and we had a strong group,” Scott told media after shooting 5-under in the first round of the Championship.
“Cam has had a rise to stardom this year. He’s being pulled in all kinds of directions I’m sure, but it’s something he’s probably learnt pretty quickly to manage at big events.
“I get to observe from fairly nearby to Cam as practice-round buddy or whatever, he does a really good job of focusing when he needs to focus and he has a good support team around him to take care of a lot of distractions.
“I really don’t have too many worries about Cam, but hopefully he can enjoy the experience as well, because that month of golf or so when I came home that year is one of the great memories of my career.
“You bringing it up jogs my memory of it and I just had a great month kind of celebrating with everybody.”
The year Scott was referring to is 2013, when he won The Masters – his first and only major title to date.
Smith and Scott – who are close friends – played the first round together at Royal Queensland. Smith finished the day 3-under, two shots behind his mate.
”Scotty was playing really nice,” Smith said afterwards of Scott.
“He’s coming into form the old fella, I think, so he might be hard to chase down over the weekend.”
Smith and Scott were one of the earliest tee-offs, but a large crowd was already on course at 6am to watch the pair in action.
“It was pretty unreal. I really wasn’t expecting that,” Smith said.
“I was probably expecting more around the 9th, 10th, the turn, so yeah it was cool. I think the crowds will definitely over the next couple of days keep getting better and better.”
Source: Wide World of Sports