Baker-Finch backs ailing Aussies to fire up at Augusta

Darren Walton |

Cameron Smith has been ailing but another Aussie golf luminary says he’s a big chance at Augusta.
Cameron Smith has been ailing but another Aussie golf luminary says he’s a big chance at Augusta.

Golf great Ian Baker-Finch is warning fans against writing off Australia’s superstar crocks as an ailing Cameron Smith fires up to spearhead a six-strong Masters assault.

As Smith continues his recovery from an untimely bout of food poisoning, Baker-Finch is backing the the 2022 British Open champion – and others – to rise to the occasion at the year’s opening major starting on Thursday.

“He’s obviously proven he can play well around here, finishing second and shooting four rounds in the 60s,” Baker-Finch said on Wednesday.

“Without the cliche of ‘beware the sick golfer’, he just wanted to make sure he was ready for this week. Last week didn’t mean as much to him, so he made sure he was ready for this week.

Ian Baker-Finch
Former British Open champ Ian Baker-Finch senses an Australian could win the Masters again. (Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS)

“He’s definitely got the game and he’s always going to be one of those guys who you think will do well around here.

“I haven’t asked him personally, ‘how sick are you?’ but he doesn’t look too sick to me. He played okay yesterday and I think he’ll be fine.”

Smith isn’t the only suffering Aussie in the field.

Min Woo Lee is playing with a broken finger in his right hand after dropping a dumbbell on it last week and also has the flu.

Baker-Finch, though, senses something special coming from his compatriots, despite Adam Scott – teeing it up for a 23rd Masters campaign – remaining the only Australian in 89 years to win a green jacket.

The 1991 British Open champion and new chair of Golf Australia, Baker-Finch says the country has too much talent for the latest 11-year Masters drought to continue. 

Pic at Augusta with Aussie hopes
Baker-Finch won’t rule out any of the fab four – Cam Smith, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Min Woo Lee. (HANDOUT/WARREN SMITH)

“Why did it take 73 years for Scotty to win in 2013 and all of the close calls? I forget how many it is, but it’s well over 20 opportunities,” he said.

“Greg (Norman) had seven or eight of them. ‘Pazza’ (Craig Parry) had a couple of chances, never putted well on the back nine.

“It means so much to us – the mystique, the history of it all. Why Australians haven’t won more is nebulous, there’s no direct answer to it.”

Baker-Finch, who also came agonisingly close at Augusta National in 1992, believes any one of Smith, Scott, Jason Day, Min Woo Lee or Cam Davis can win on Sunday.

“It’s about time an Australian won another green jacket. We certainly have the talent and we keep producing great talent … I think it’s inevitable,” he said.

“Maybe this year Min Woo Lee fires up and does something creative. 

“Smithy, maybe, comes back and does it. Cam Davis has got the game if he can finish it off. He’s thereabouts and wins when he plays great. Maybe he has an opportunity.

“They all are. They all are really a chance.”

Rookie amateur Jasper Stubbs is the first Australian out, teeing off at 9am local time (11pm AEST).

Smith, Lee and Davis also have morning tee times for what is forecast to be a wet and wild day with heavy rain and thunderstorms threatening to cause havoc to the schedule.

Scott and Day, who is grouped with five-time champion and sentimental favourite Tiger Woods, both have afternoon tee slots.