The leaderboard is heavily congested after the first round on Thursday, with Scott among 16 players at two-under the card, but the world No.18’s name looms the largest as he plots his way towards the weekend.
“I played good today. Unfortunately I really mishit that drive off 13 and it cost me two (shots). Other than that it was pretty much stress free. I was very happy with it… it wasn’t that easy out there. I wish I could have that swing on 13 back again but overall, I feel good about my round,” Scott said.
“I needed to have a good finish. It was a day today where you could be over par quite easily and leave yourself a lot of work to do to get in the tournament. A round like two under leaves me in a great spot and with the light winds tomorrow morning, to (hopefully) come out and rip the front nine apart.”
Scott missed the cut at the Australian Open and was a solid contributor at the President’s Cup for the Internationals but arrived in his home state deeply motivated to win the year-ending tournament.
He hasn’t won a trophy anywhere since 2016 and despite a highly consistent year on the Tour, wants to return to his old winning ways. The PGA, with Smith the obvious competition, looked as good a chance as any for him to break his drought.
But Smith needs something special on Friday to put himself back in the conversation, with Scott saying he understood how much of a toll the comedown from such a major event could play during a round.
“I think it’s always hard coming off the back of something very emotionally charged. Even though we didn’t win (the President’s Cup) there was a lot going into it for four days, there were times out there (on Thursday) I was reminding myself to focus in and play hard.”
Herbert had been struggling with some ligament issues in his hands but said they were much improved on Thursday as he set the early pace along with Queensland journeyman Brett Rankin.
“Yeah, it’s been a lot better. I can still just feel it a little bit at times. 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,” Herbert said.
“Hands are really good, can’t complain there. It’s good to be healthy again and able to play.”