Cameron Smith, the seemingly bulletproof Queenslander, has played his way almost anonymously into the third last pair of the US Open.
Amid all the drama of an extraordinary third round today, the Golf Australia rookie squad member is legitimately within reach of one of golf’s most extraordinary fairytales.
In his first major championship, and on a brutal layout, Smith, 21, simply refuses to buckle, shooting a one-under-par 69 to leap to a tie for fifth.
And as the world begins to learn his story, his demeanour continues to defy the magnitude of the situation — including that no US Open debutant has won since Hall of Famer Francis Ouimet in 1913.
Smith made a disappointing bogey on the par-three, but then played a rare and spectacular blemish-free back nine to power through the majority of the wobbling field.
He made a curling 5m birdie putt on the tough 14th, then a spectacular tee shot on the par-three 17th to 1m set up his inward 33 that was bettered only by leader and countryman Jason Day.
“Today was an awesome experience,” Smiths said.
“I felt like there was a few more people out there … but I just kept it in myself and just kept playing.”
Smith all week has said he’d delight in four even-par 70s, but joked that he wasn’t upset to change his plan.
“No, I'm not. I'm happy with one under,” he said with trademark cheeky grin.
“I played pretty well today – got off to a bit of a rusty start, but brought it back on the back nine.”
Smith, who has no playing status at all outside Asia and Australia, remarkably stands to earn a full US PGA Tour card tomorrow if he can maintain his position in the top five.
But he’s more focused on the thrill of the ride, which will take him into a Sunday appearance with former (British) Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
“It's like a dream come true, really. That's all I can say.”
Former world No.1 Adam Scott was impressed by his fellow Queenslander’s monumental debut on one of golf’s grandest stages.
“It’s a hell of an effort in his first major,” Scott said.
“I don’t know much about Cam, but he’s obviously doing something right, that’s for sure.”
Scott urged him to “somehow” play Sunday’s finale as if it were just another round.
“It’s an experience. It’s one of those things that nothing anyone tells him is really going to prepare him for it,” Scott said.
“It’s all going to have come from within him tomorrow.”
“If he does all the right stuff and somehow blocks out everything that’s going on around him, and puts a good round together, he could hold the trophy.
“(But) it’s not something he wants to think about tonight,” Scott said with a wide grin.
“It’s just another 18 holes of golf is somehow (the mindset) he needs to reach when he stands on the first tee tomorrow.”
Smith said the course was really playing into his hands because of his fondess and ability to create shots on the fly.
“(I like) the shot-making,” he said.
“Sometimes it's a bit like you just throw the yardage book out and hit a shot.
“I like that kind of golf and I think it's a good challenge.”
And one that he’s clearly up to.