After all the upbeat talk about this perhaps being the year another Aussie might at last follow Greg Norman by supping from the Claret Jug after a 28-year drought, even Smith was left nonplussed by the toothless start from the 11-strong contingent.

Asked by AAP if he was surprised, that on a low-scoring opening day on Thursday which saw 47 players break the par of 70, his 69 would end up being the best of the bunch, Smith conceded: "Yeah, Aussie golf the last couple of months has been pretty strong, so that is a bit odd.

"But I'm sure the boys'll get up tomorrow and get up for it, and their time will come."

They will have to 'get up for it' – and quick – with the damage to the hopes of other luminaries like his mate Marc Leishman and former World No.1 Jason Day perhaps already fatal as they both shot five-over par 75s – 10 off the lead set by in-form South African Louis Oosthuizen.

The bad news began early with Min Woo Lee, the 22-year-old who'd come in with such high hopes after his Scottish Open triumph last weekend, shooting a four-over 74 including a calamitous triple-bogey seven at the troublesome 15th hole.

Day also had a triple-bogey seven on his card while Leishman, usually so reliable, simply couldn't get anything rolling and didn't record a single birdie.

Ironically, the best two scores of the day after Smith's dogged effort late into the evening came from two players who'd suffered the least ideal preparations after being caught up in traffic problems in Sandwich en route to the course.

"Aussie golf the last couple of months has been pretty strong ... I'm sure the boys'll get up tomorrow."  Cameron Smith

Lucas Herbert, the recent Irish Open winner, felt a bit rushed and hassled after needing a police escort to help extricate himself from the jam and make his tee time, yet finally composed himself to recover from a poor start and shoot a level-par 70.

Kennedy, who qualified as the Australasian Order of Merit winner, admitted he was panicking a bit and considered abandoning his car and running to the course.

The 47-year-old was rather glad he didn't as he still managed to hit more fairways than all but two in the field and record a respectable 71.

Matt Jones was two-over, Adam Scott and Jason Scrivener three-over, Aaron Pike four-over, and, late in the day, Deyen Lawson's 10-over 80 seemed to sum up the collective effort as he propped up the entire 156-strong field.

At least, 'Digger' was in esteemed company as a glum-looking Phil Mickelson was the other player in joint-last place.

In defence of the much later starters like Lawson and Scott, who had also been talking up his chances this week, the wind off Sandwich Bay became much more blustery in the afternoon, adding a couple of shots a round to the scores. It made Smith's effort even more laudatory.

The mulleted one also couldn't remember when he'd ever finished a round after 8pm after his mid-afternoon start. Having to hang around for much of the day, he reckoned, had been "a bit of a drag".

Paired with his old Presidents Cup sparring partner Patrick Reed (72) and the heavily-supported Rory McIlroy (70), Smith outperformed them both after battling hard to save par on each of his first four holes.

"The first four or five holes I was on the back foot – a couple of nice chips, nice putts – and when I just got through there at level par, it looks like a win for me," he said.

"I hit a lot of good shots coming in and probably wanted one more, but that's how it is. Still, I always thought something in the 60s was going to go a long way for the rest of the week."

- Ian Chadband, Australian Associated Press