Queensland’s Cameron Smith believes his trusty short game will leave him with a fighting chance for the weekend rounds at the Masters as Augusta National bares its teeth on day two.
With defending champion Sergio Garcia carding a disastrous 13 on the par-5 15th on Thursday, Augusta claimed another victim early on Friday as overnight leader Jordan Spieth dropped four shots on his opening seven holes.
But playing in the first group out on the course, Smith took advantage of briefly favourable early morning conditions to post an even par 72 and remain at one under and well in the hunt.
World No.45 Smith will start the third round eight shots from the lead held by American Patrick Reed.
The 24-year-old ranks 11th on the US PGA Tour in scrambling for par saves and says it is the reason he has avoided the landmines which have struck some of the big names.
"Belief in my short game; regardless of where I am, I know I have a good chance at making par and that's really helped me out the first two days," Smith said.
"It's so tough out there and the course has changed so much over the last two days and everyone is trying to wrap their heads around it.
"I do feel I left a few shots out there today but you have to take what you're given."
Front nine bogies at the 1st, 5th and 7th holes were all offset by birdies at the 2nd, 3rd and 6th holes. The last of the trio coming at the end of a slick 25-foot downhill putt that charged into the back of the cup.
The wind started to pick up as Smith’s group headed into the back nine and despite having a hot and cold driver in his hands, he was able to scramble his way back to the clubhouse with nine straight pars. Perhaps the best of his ‘escapes’ came at the par-4 17th hole, where he missed the fairway left and was deep in the trees with 195 yards still left to the flag.
“I either had to chip out and have a probably a 5‑ or a 6‑iron in or try and get it over the trees there and it looked very inviting,” Smith recounted after his round. “My caddie said it was a go, so we just went with it and ended up hitting it on the green, which was a big bonus.
“Yeah, to get away there with a par was awesome.”
Smith’s driving has been questionable over the opening two rounds, hitting just seven of 14 fairways on Friday, which was one more than in the opening round. Such inaccuracy from the tee is forcing Smith to fight for pars and is not giving him enough looks at genuine birdie opportunities.
"Just the longer (shots) I need to improve on," Smith said.
"I feel really comfortable with the putter and the short game, so if I can get the long (game) sorted and I think I'll be good. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing heading into the weekend. Just need to hit a few more balls this afternoon and get the driver figured out and then I think I'll be good to go.
"It's going to be an interesting weekend."
– Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press