14 Nov 2020 | Professional golf |
Smith shares Masters lead
by Mark Hayes
It sounds crazy, but Cam Smith has made two late day two charges to the top of the Masters leaderboard.
Smith started the day a nondescript even par with eight holes to play in a rain-marred round one and promptly caught fire with five birdies from holes 2-9.
But that was just a hint of the crazy ride on which he was about to embark that ended with the Australian in a share of the lead at nine under alongside Mexican Abraham Ancer and Americans Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.
On another day of hot scoring, a host of players yet to complete their rounds are within reach of that pedestal, most notably world No.2 Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama just one back with several holes remaining for each.
Smith promptly joined the lead with a pair of early birdies as round two began, then frittered many of those gains away with a couple of wayward mid-round drives, doing well to scramble a bogey on the 10th after a huge hook off the tee.
A birdie on the 13th was given back with a three-putt bogey from the front fringe on 14th – and that’s when it all turned for the Queenslander.
The 27-year-old almost holed a 7-wood on the par-five 15th, but kicked in his eagle, before a closing hat-trick of birdies enabled him to rejoin the lead at nine under after an entertaining 68.
His remarkable day featured four bogeys, but no fewer than 11 birdies and an eagle to put himself in pole position to go better than his best finish at Augusta – a fast-finishing T5 in 2018.
“It was a very up‑and‑down round, a little bit scrappy through the middle there,” the Wantima member said.
“It could have definitely got away from me, just with the tiredness and playing 26 holes in a day.
“But I hung in there and the reward was there at the end.”
The second round will be completed tomorrow morning, after which the draw will be made for the third round.
But Smith, with veteran Aussie caddie Matthew “Bussy” Tritton on the bag for the first time this week, is a chance to play with former Australian Open champion Ancer, a good mate after their time on the Presidents Cup team last year.
“I was saying to Bussy after the bogey on (14), let's just get it back to seven (under),” Smith said of his late heroics.
“We got to seven (under) early in the round and it's kind of weird finishing lower than you were at one point.
“(On the 15th), I was actually trying to hit it about 20 or 30 feet right (of the pin with my second shot) and the wind kind of caught it a little bit more than I liked and it ended up being good.
“From there, a 7-iron … with the pin down on the bottom (on 16) today, one of the easier pins there and then just hit a nice drive down 17 and 18. Two solid shots in. It wasn't crazy stuff. It was just really solid and the putts dropped.”
Dual Australian PGA Championship winner Smith, who also has a T4 US Open finish in his young career, said he thrived on the challenge of major championships and wouldn’t be overawed.
“I just like being tested, I guess,” he said.
“I feel like my game is best when I have to think a lot and hit the right shots and it's an even playing field.
“It's obviously good to be in contention on a weekend, and I feel like I've been there enough where I can have a good crack at it.”
Asked if his big Presidents Cup singles win over former world No.1 Thomas at Royal Melbourne in December would help when the whips were cracking, Smith was equally positive.
“Yeah, I think my best golf is right up there. It's the stuff in between that gets me.
“Those guys are just so good at getting the most out of their game all the time, and that's something I need to learn to do.
“But I feel like when I'm playing really good golf, I can be right up there.”
Marc Leishman is best placed of the other Australians, having fought back hard from a double-bogey to begin his second round.
The Victorian took four shots to get down from just off the front fringe on the first and was clearly frustrated by falling to even par overall.
But the five-time PGA Tour event winner knuckled down superbly and had an eagle putt lipped in on the 13th, his name would have been on the main leaderboard, too.
He will resume on day three with a 2.5m birdie putt on the 15th that could take him to five under and right in the mix.
Adam Scott suffered a wicked misfortune earlier in the day as he completed his first round. The 2013 champion hit his second shot to the par-five 15th in the water, but then watched in utter disbelief as his fourth hit the pin and ran all the way back into the water again en route to a seven that effectively gave three shots to the field.
His second round meandered with only one birdie across the par-fives. But he gave that edge back when a tugged drive on the last hole cost him a bogey in a flat 72 that left him at two under.
Fellow Queenslander Jason Day will resume tomorrow with a 1.5m birdie putt on the second hole that he’ll need to push away from the glut of players at even par who are locked at the projected cut figure.
Day has been unusually erratic through the first two days and he’s already had three bogeys, three birdies and a double-bogey in the first 10 holes of his second round.
A nervy double-bogey on his first hole – the 10th – from Lukas Michel threatened to derail his second round.
But the Victorian amateur rallied hard and traded birdies and bogeys from that point to sit six over in total with three holes remaining in his first Masters experience.
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