JUST two years after paying to play on the third tier of European golf, Jordan Smith believes he has the game to contend for major titles following a stunning performance at Quail Hollow.

Derry Hill's Smith claimed a share of ninth place on his major debut in the US PGA Championship, a closing round of 68 seeing him finish ahead of the likes of Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

The 24-year-old, based at the Bowood club near Calne, was competing on the EuroPro Tour as recently as 2015, where annual membership costs £250 and players pay £295 to enter each event.

But after finishing top of the rankings to graduate to the Challenge Tour, Smith won the Race to Oman in 2016 to secure a European Tour card and claimed his first title by beating defending champion Alexander Levy in a play-off at the Porsche European Open at the end of July.

"The EuroPro Tour is a tough tour," Smith recalled. "The first few events I struggled a little bit and then I won at Chart Hills and that gave me the confidence to keep going.

"Playing in the US PGA is a lot different than being back in my own car and driving around the UK for sure. It's been amazing, I've really enjoyed the whole experience and hopefully I can play a few more.

"That's definitely something I've learned this week, that I've got the game to compete in the majors so hopefully I'll play a few more."

Smith's performance at Quail Hollow secured his place in the 2018 US PGA and lifted him to a career-high of 69th in the world rankings, with the top 50 at the end of the year qualifying for the Masters in April.

"I've definitely far exceeded my expectations," he added. "Obviously the first goal was to win and I managed to do that which was nice.

"It's just been down to a lot of hard work at home with my (Bowood-based) coach Simon Shanks - a great golf name! It's been a really steady progression over the last few years even if it's been quite sudden. I've just been going with it and enjoying the whole experience."

That experience included playing nine holes in practice with Rory McIlroy and contesting the final round with Open runner-up Matt Kuchar, who was full of praise for the former Walker Cup player.

"He drove it beautifully and long," Kuchar said. "And although he didn't miss many shots, when he did he was pretty good at recovering.

"There aren't many weaknesses in his game. He has the sort of effortless power that reminds me of Louis Oosthuizen."

Other comparisons have often been made accidentally, although things may change after his performance at Quail Hollow.

"There have been a lot of cases of mistaken identity," Smith admitted. "The best was Oman for the Challenge Tour Grand Final. I won the Rankings and the guy that announced me called me Jordan Spieth, so that wasn't the best start."