11 Apr 2022 | Professional golf |
Smith's heartbreak as Scheffler wins The Masters
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
When Cameron Smith looks back on his Sunday in the final group at The Masters, two shots will stand out.
The first Australian to feature in the final group at Augusta National since Stuart Appleby in 2007 and paired with world No.1 Scottie Scheffler, Smith birdied the first two holes to turn a three-shot deficit into just one.
It woke all of Australia from its Monday slumber yet by day’s end it would resemble more of a nightmare for a man seeking to join Adam Scott (2013) as the only Aussies to win the coveted green jacket.
Smith would ultimately shoot 73 to finish in a share of third, five shots back of Scheffler (71) who claimed his fourth win in the space of just 56 days – the shortest span between first and fourth wins in PGA TOUR history – and which made him a major champion.
“Just too many mistakes,” Smith reflected post-round.
“I feel like my two bogeys on the front nine weren’t quite deserved and halted the momentum a little bit. Got off to a really good start birdieing the first two and then two bogeys to follow that just really slowed me down.
“Poor shot on 12 and there was the tournament.
“It was a perfect 9-iron; it was just a really poor swing. Probably one of the worst swings of the week at the worst time of the week.
“Unfortunate but I’ll grow from this and be stronger for it.”
Smith and Scheffler started the week as the two hottest players in world golf and went head-to-head on Sunday.
Early on it was Smith who established the ascendancy with back-to-back birdies at one and two but as quickly as momentum swung the way of the 28-year-old Queenslander, it reversed back the other way.
Both players missed the fairway left of the par-4 third and then came up short with their approach shots, Scheffler from 79 yards and Smith 58 not able to clear the false front.
It was a scenario that seemingly played into the hands of Smith’s sublime short game yet it was Scheffler who turned the tournament on its head, chipping in from 29 yards. Smith missed his par putt from 19 feet and the margin was suddenly back to three.
For Australians old enough to remember Larry Mize’s chip-in to defeat Greg Norman in the playoff in 1987 it was an ominous omen but none could have foreseen what would come at the par-3 12th.
Coming off a birdie at the toughest hole on the golf course – the par-4 11th – Smith had the honour at 12 trailing by three, yet his Masters hopes symbolically sank with his golf ball when he failed to clear Rae’s Creek.
A pitch shot from 89 yards flew the green long and right and when he missed his putt for double bogey from seven feet he had handed Scheffler an unassailable six-shot lead.
A bogey at 14 was countered by a two-putt birdie at the par-5 15th which a nerveless Scheffler matched, the Texan taking a five-shot lead from Rory McIlroy (64) to the 16th tee.
It was an impressive display of composure and scrambling from a player now entrenched in the consciousness of world golf but will be a Sunday that stings for Smith for the foreseeable future.
It was a day of highs and lows too for West Australian Min Woo Lee.
An eagle at the par-5 second and four straight birdies to close out the front nine saw Lee post six-under 30 and claim the lowest nine of any player on either nine all week, climbing into a share of fourth as he made his way to the 10th tee.
The 23-year-old lipped out for par at 10, missed the green well left as he made bogey at 11, watched his ball trickle back into Rae’s Creek at 12 on his way to another bogey and hit two balls into the water in making bogey at 13.
There was another bogey at 16 and a birdie at 17 in a final round of two-under 70 and a tie for 14th, one shot shy of earning a return invitation in 2023.
“Coming into this week I wasn’t playing that well but this place gets you on another level just because you’re in front of millions of people and you need to play good,” said Lee.
“There’s some demanding shots out here, and it makes you kind of reverse psychology and tell yourself you just have to commit to it. If you have a bad swing, you have a bad swing, but you just have to commit to every shot out here.”
Marc Leishman (74) ended a frustrating week with the putter tied for 30th while Cam Davis (73) edged Adam Scott (74) in the all-Aussie pairing that led the field out on Sunday.
“I’ve looked up to Adam my whole life, and getting a go around here first group off, fresh greens, not much wind, the weather a little warmer, it was a lot more enjoyable,” said Davis.
“And I’ve seen all these Sunday pins for years now. It was fun to have a couple of cracks at using all the slopes and hitting the shots that I’ve seen before.
“A lot of fun. A lot of good memories. It was awesome.”
The Masters Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia Winner Scottie Scheffler 69-67-71-71—278 $US2.7m T3 Cameron Smith 68-74-68-73—283 14 Min Woo Lee 73-75-72-70—290 T30 Marc Leishman 73-75-71-74—293 T46 Cam Davis 75-73-79-73—300 T48 Adam Scott 74-74-80-74—302
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