Smith birdied his opening hole and followed it with eight pars before picking up seven shots in the last nine holes to compile an eight-under-par 62 to enjoy a two-stroke lead over Germany’s Matthias Schmid and Scotland’s David Drysdale.
“Not half bad,” Smith said. “Just everything came together really. I’ve been struggling with my iron play recently, but that and my wedge game and my putting were really, really good today. I’m not going to lie.
“I’ve felt like it’s been sort of trending in the right way. It just hasn’t all come together at the right point.
“My putting has either been good and my iron play has been good, it’s been one or the other, but today it sort of all came together, and (hopefully) more of the same.”
The ISPS Handa World Invitational, which is tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour, sees men’s and women’s tournaments taking place simultaneously.
In the women’s event, Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh carded a seven-under-par 66 to share the lead with American Jennifer Kupcho and South Korea’s Chella Choi, with England’s Charley Hull and Georgia Hall two shots off the pace.
Players will complete 18 holes at Galgorm Castle and 18 at Massereene Golf Club before a halfway cut is made in each tournament, with a further cut after 54 holes to the top 30 players and ties.
“I played very well,” Dryburgh said. “Played very solid tee to green. I think I only missed three greens.
“So I played very well and holed the putts and kind of hit it quite close, as well.
“I’ve actually been playing quite well recently, just nothing has kind of clicked. Putts haven’t been dropping. So it’s been quite frustrating to be honest.
“But I’ve kind of had to stay patient and I knew a round like this was coming, so it was good to see it come out today.”
Schmid turned professional after winning the silver medal as the leading amateur in the Open Championship and finished alongside Smith in a tie for 47th in last week’s Cazoo Open.
“So far I like it a lot actually,” Schmid said of his career in the paid ranks. “I’ve been dreaming to do this for a long time. Second event, I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s great.
“A lot of things have changed but I always said good golf works everywhere, so I still try to play my own game and play as well as I can. It doesn’t matter what the situation is really.
“Obviously with the silver medal a lot of things went well for me. That’s I think how I could get into these tournaments and I hope I can draw a few more invites.”
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