Spain’s Joel Moscatel Nachshon shot a remarkable eight-under 63 on his DP World Tour debut on Thursday to lead the Australian PGA Championship, but defending champion Cameron Smith had a round to forget.
In front of a packed gallery at the Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane, the 25-year-old equaled the course record to take a one-shot lead after the first round from Australian rising star Min Woo Lee.
Ranked 1,162 in the world, Nachshon shot eight birdies, including five in a row, in the opening event of the European circuit’s 2024 season.
“I just got into the rhythm,” said Nachshon, who played in the tour’s school qualifier in Spain a week ago. “But tomorrow is a new day, I just have to do my job and try to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Lee was the first club leader after eight birdies and a bogey in his 64.
“I felt like I didn’t leave much out there and it was a really good round,” said Lee, who has secured playing rights for 2024 on the US PGA Tour.
“I putted and chipped really well, and then drove it really well.”
Australia’s John Lyras is a stroke behind Lee and the back of a group chasing former Masters champion Adam Scott, Scotland’s Connor Syme and Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune.
But big winner Smith, now playing on the lucrative Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour, has been unable to climb and has a mountain to climb to repeat last year’s feat when he won by three shots.
He birdied the par-four 10th, his opener, and never managed a 2-over 73.
“It was disappointing, upsetting,” said the former world number two, who has dominated the event in recent years, winning in 2017, 2018 and 2022.
“There was really nothing I could do.”
With world ranking points at stake, the tournament has attracted a number of overseas players as they seek a year-end top-50 finish to secure a spot at next year’s US Masters.
Scottish Ryder Cup star Robert MacIntyre, who finished tied for 12th on his Masters debut in 2021 and is currently ranked 56th, carded a 69 in his bid for the spot, while Poland’s Adrian Meronk, ranked 48 , got 68.
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