GOLD COAST (AFP) - Australians Lucas Herbert and Brett Rankin headed the leaderboard after day one of the European Tour co-sanctioned Australian PGA Championship on Thursday (Dec 19), with veteran Adam Scott three off the pace.
The two both carded five-under 67s at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, ahead of a chasing pack of five a shot further back, including New Zealander Ryan Chisnall.
World No. 18 Scott, fresh from defeat at the Presidents Cup in Melbourne last week, hit a solid 70 to stay in touch, alongside American Stewart Cink, the 2009 Open champion who is back in Australia for the first time in 16 years.
Defending champion Cameron Smith, who was also on Ernie Els' losing International team against Tiger Woods' Americans at the Presidents Cup, could only manage a two-over 74.
Herbert, who plies his trade on the European Tour, where he scored five top-five finishes in his 2018 debut year, is on the comeback from a hand injury and was happy with his form.
"There was one shot into the eighth today that I felt it a bit and it was bit sore, but I think at the (Australian) Open I was kind of flinching and trying to not hurt my hand whereas I'm not really doing that now," he said.
"It's good to be healthy again and able to play. It was good to start the way I have, especially since I haven't played a lot of golf lately."
Smith, who has won the last two Australian PGA Championships, edging Marc Leishman last year, had a double bogey at the par-three second which took its toll.
A 3am wake-up call for a 6am start didn't help either.
"I just used up maybe a little bit too much energy trying to make those putts early in the round and trying to get something going and then just a couple poor swings on the back nine," he said.
"It was just one of those kind of days where a par was a good score."