16 Jul 2022 | Professional golf |

Record-breaking Smith leads 150th Open

by Dane Heverin

Cameron Smith.

By Dane Heverin at St Andrews

Cameron Smith has produced the best 36-hole score to par in tournament history at 13-under to seize a two-shot lead at St Andrews in the 150th Open Championship on a stunning day for Australia.

Four other Australians are inside the top-12 as Smith’s 64, the low round of the day, shaved a shot off Adam Scott's earlier 65.

The day belonged to Australia with Scott (-7) now tied-eighth overall and Min Woo Lee and Lucas Herbert also inside the top-12 at six-under for the tournament, and our nation’s two highest ranked male players took it upon themselves to light up the Old Course.

Scott almost brought the house down with a long-range eagle putt that nearly dropped at the 18th as Smith was waiting to tee off from the first, and it appeared as if the 2013 Masters had tagged in his fellow Queenslander to take over as chief entertainer.

The world number six happily accepted the responsibility and got to work immediately with a hat-trick of birdies to kick things off which included a 47-footer at the first to keep the place jumping.

“Obviously got off to a really hot start,” Smith said. “And it's very easy to just keep going, getting on the front foot and maybe trying to hit some shots that are a little bit too aggressive. But just stayed patient and holed some really nice putts.”

He kept the ball rolling with consecutive birdies at seven and eight, and another at ten, but it was another monster putt at the par-5 14th that had fans flocking to see him in action.

The murmurs had begun around the course that Rory McIlroy’s record for the lowest round in an Open at St Andrews - a 63 in 2010 - was in danger as Smith displayed the kind of form that secured him the the PGA Tour’s 72-hole scoring record with 34-under at the Tournament of Champions in January and the Players Championship in March.

It was not to be however, as he parred his way home but it was clear he had uncovered something special at the Scottish Open last weekend - where he shot 68 and 67 on Saturday and Sunday to finish tied tenth.

“I think I just played some really good golf last week. Just a little bit I guess more pep in my step,” Smith said.

“My last few tournaments before that one weren't the greatest. I wasn't really happy with how I was playing. It's nice to put a good, solid weekend together ahead of this one.”

Smith’s confidence was also boosted by unleashing his inner golf-loving kid in a Wednesday practice round with his great friends Scott and Marc Leishman.

“I think Tuesday/Wednesday was more the kid coming out in me, using the big humps and hollows and stuff like that. But it's definitely been a little different in the last couple of days,” he said.

“I think playing nine holes with Leish and Scotty the other day and getting our photo taken on the bridge, that was a pretty cool moment, I think, something that I'll definitely never forget. Two of my best mates now in the home of golf, just having a good time, having a whack around, that was really cool.”

As for the strong showing from his countrymen with Brad Kennedy (-4), Jason Scrivener (-1) and Anthony Quayle (-1) making it seven Australians to advance to the weekend, Smith believes the reason why is simple.

“I think I've always been a pretty good player in tough conditions. I think most Aussies are, for some reason. I think we're all brought up to be smart golfers, hit away from the pin sometimes. And that really serves us well, I think, in big tournaments and when the conditions get tough,” he said.

“I think a lot of Sandbelt golfers like that, using slopes to your advantage, sometimes having a big curling putt is your best option. And I think the Aussies will do good this week as it gets firmer and faster.”

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