09 Apr 2022 | Professional golf |

Smith hangs tough as five Aussies make The Masters cut

by PGA of Australia

Cameron Smith during the second round of The Masters.

By Tony Webeck

Two birdies in his final four holes has kept Cameron Smith in the hunt as five Australians advanced to the weekend rounds at The Masters.

Smith shot 74 on Friday to enter the third round two-under for the championship and tied for sixth, six behind the hottest player in men’s golf and the No.1 player in the world, Scottie Scheffler (67).

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (69), 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel (69), Shane Lowry (68) and 2020 runner-up and Round 1 leader Sungjae Im (74) are five shots back of Scheffler at three-under followed a further shot back by Smith, 2020 champion Dustin Johnson (73), 2016 Australian PGA champion Harold Varner III (71) and Kevin Na (71) at two-under.

Smith, Adam Scott (74), Marc Leishman (75), Cam Davis (73) and Min Woo Lee (75) are among the 52 players to make the cut, Lucas Herbert the only Aussie to fall short with a four-over 76 to end his Masters debut at six-over.

Outright second at the start of a day where strong, gusty winds challenged every aspect of the game, Smith failed to get up and down from the front of the first green to drop a shot early and back to three-under for the championship.

An uncharacteristically poor chip from the right of the green led to a second bogey at the par-3 fourth and despite a tee shot of 352 yards THE PLAYERS champion dropped another shot at nine when his approach shot flew the green and he was unable to save his par.

A three-putt from 14 feet at 12 was also a far cry from the Smith we saw for 16 holes on Thursday yet he conjured a fightback that keeps his championship hopes alive.

He scrapped a par after finding the penalty area left of the 13th fairway and then produced his first birdie of the day at the par-5 15th, hitting his approach from 111 yards to three feet and a much-needed surge of momentum.

The 28-year-old had good looks at 16 and 17 but it was at 18 where he made his second birdie from just five feet to get back to two-under and remain inside the top 10 heading into the third round.

“I feel as though I hit lots of really quality shots into the green and just really didn’t have any birdie opportunities,” Smith said post-round.

“It was so windy and gusty out there, quite hard to get the speed on the greens as well.

“It got quite frustrating there at some points during today. It’s easy to say that you can get unlucky around here, but it’s just the way the golf course is.

“It demands quality golf shots, and if you don’t hit them, you’re going to make some numbers.”

Scott, Leishman, Davis and Lee all made the cut on the number but did so in vastly different fashion.

Davis needed four birdies in his final six holes, Lee played his final four in one-under oblivious that he was in danger of missing out while Scott had to fight hard his final three holes after a disastrous triple-bogey eight at the par-5 15th.

Blocked out by his tee shot that finished on the left side of the fairway, Scott punched out down to 90 yards from the green.

His pitch shot landed in the middle of the green before spinning back into the water, three-putting from the back fringe on the repeat effort.

“It was tough. I was playing really well, and 15 bit me,” conceded Scott, who had a front row seat to the Scottie Scheffler show.

“That’s Augusta National. You live on a knife’s edge every hole honestly, and I was playing with a guy who made it look easy. But that’s how he’s playing at the moment.

“I was playing really, really solid stuff and just misjudged it into 15 and pitched it probably two yards short of my number and ripped it in the water. That hole can give you nightmares, and I had one today.”

A birdie at 16 would prove to be crucial as the 2013 champion missed from close range for par at 17 and then had to get up and down from the bunker right of the 18th green to post the number he needed.

Believing that there was a 10-shot rule in play to determine the cut-line, it was only after he holed out at 18 that Lee understood how important his final four holes were to advancing in his first Masters.

“I thought there was a 10-shot rule cut-thing still,” said the 23-year-old.

“Before 15, I was like, Oh, I’m actually not too bad. I’ve still got a few shots to give. Now that I know it was just top 50 and cut, I’ve got to give myself a pat on the back because that was a really good finish.

“Getting into the tournament’s a good achievement, but to actually play well, it’s another step. I knew I had to keep my head down. I’m glad some of my best golf has come now.”

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