Below par Cam Smith still eyes future Masters success

Darren Walton |

Even in despair Cameron Smith feels destined to win the Masters after recording his third top-five finish in four years at Augusta National.

Smith settled for equal third, behind triumphant world No.1 Scottie Scheffler and a roaring Rory McIlroy, after two cruel breaks dashed the Australian’s chances on Sunday.

He must be wondering what might have been after closing with a luckless one-over-par 73 to fall five shots short of Scheffler at five under.

After slashing Scheffler’s overnight lead to just one stroke with two superb birdies to open the final round, Smith’s hopes began to fade in an extraordinary twist on the third hole.

After driving into the trees left, Scheffler was given relief from an interfering scoreboard, his second favourable drop in four holes after escaping with a miracle bogey up the last on Saturday.

Scheffler left his ensuing pitch shot short and watched his ball tumble back down the hill.

Staring a bogey in the face as Smith threatened to seize the lead, the Texan instead chipped in for a most improbable birdie.

After also leaving his approach short, Smith was unable to save par from the same position as Scheffler’s hole-out, suddenly leaving the Queenslander three shots behind again.

He never recovered.

Another bogey on the par-3 fourth hole, after taking an aggressive line off the tee and finding the bunker, had Smith trailing by four.

“I feel like maybe my two bogeys on the front nine weren’t quite deserved,” he said.

“Just really slowed me down.”

Both players birdied the seventh as Scheffler moved to 11 under and assumed control.

Runner-up to Dustin Johnson in the rescheduled November Masters in 2020, Smith seemed set for at least another second after making a brilliant birdie on the par-4 11th, one of Augusta’s most demanding holes.

Instead the 28-year-old’s tee shot on the 12th found the water and he racked up a heartbreaking triple-bogey six as Amen Corner claimed yet another victim.

“Poor shot on 12 and that was the tournament,” Smith said.

“It was just a perfect 9-iron. It’s just a really bad swing. Probably one of the worst swings of the week and just at the worst time of the week.

“Just unfortunate, but I’ll grow from this and be stronger for it.”

Smith rebounded gamely with successive birdies on 15 and 16 to secure equal third to go with his fifth in 2018, second in 2020 and 10th last year at the season’s first and most magical major. 

“I feel like I’ve played some of my best golf around here. It just hasn’t quite been my time yet,” the new world No.5 said.

“A couple of lucky breaks here and there and I’ll be putting the green jacket on, I’m sure one day.

“I feel really comfortable around this place. I feel like it’s a place that really suits my game.

“I look forward to coming back here every year and playing good golf.”

Countryman Min Woo Lee (70) had a more memorable day, tying the Masters front-nine record course with 30 sizzling shots en route to a top-15 finish on debut at two over.

Marc Leishman (74) tied for 30th at five over, Cam Davis (73) finished 46th at 12 over, while former champion Adam Scott (74) shared 48th spot at 14 over after making the cut for a 13th straight year.