Australia's Cameron Smith
Australia's Cameron Smith chips on the second hole during the first round at the Masters. Image by AP PHOTO
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Smith hangs tough to keep his Masters dream alive

Darren Walton April 12, 2024

Cameron Smith is vowing to hang tough after leaving himself needing to pull off a Tiger Woods-like feat to win the Masters.

Smith was “absolutely” chuffed to have ground out a fighting first-round one-under-par 71 after almost a week battling an untimely and sapping bout of food poisoning.

The 2022 British Open champion recovered from a watery double-bogey five on the 12th hole to be among just a third of the field in red numbers.

“Just with the prep not being probably as good as I wanted it to be, and then the conditions today were pretty tough,” Smith told AAP.

“I struck the ball really well and probably didn’t have my best day with the putter. It was pretty tough on the greens, to be fair, anyway, kind of gusty and fast.

“I’ve just got a little bit of clean-up to do with the putter and should be good.”

Cameron Davis is the leading Australian, just four shots off the pace in a tie for sixth at three-under with New Zealander Ryan Fox after opening with a fine 69.

Davis dropped only one shot all day in an unflappable performance from the 2017 Australian Open winner.

Australia's Cam Davis
 The unflappable Cam Davis waits to play on the 17th hole during the first round at the Masters. Image by AP PHOTO 

“I battled pretty hard for it, but I felt honestly pretty tidy around the golf course today with the winds like this,” Davis said.

“It was gusty. It swirled. It did all the things it normally does, but add another 30 miles an hour to it.

“I’m very happy with the way I plotted my way around this place. I got the ball in the hole well and walking off with a sub-70 round today feels like a big win.”

Despite also feeling upbeat, history is against Smith donning the green jacket on Sunday.

The great Tiger Woods, in 2005 and 2019, is the only player in the past 20 years to win the Masters from outside the top 10 – and Smith is tied for 17th.

“You’ve just got to stay in it around here,” Smith said.

“The course is going to get firmer and faster. You have that kind of hot moment where you have four or five under par for nine holes and you’re right back in it.

“It’s just kind of waiting for that to happen. It’s not even really trying to get ahead of yourself or trying to do anything. 

“It’s just much of the same stuff, just waiting for the putts to drop.”

Min Woo Lee, Jason Day and 2013 champion Adam Scott also face fights to make the halfway cut.

Playing with the flu and a broken finger from a freak dumbbell drop on his right hand last week, Lee rode a first-round roller-coaster to sign for a two-over 74.

He staged a spirited mid-round revival with two birdies and his eagle in the space of six holes to pull back from four-over back to level par.

But he let it slip late to be sharing 49th place in the 89-man field and in need of a low second round to book a weekend tee spot.

Day and Scott are in even worse shape after returning early Friday morning to complete their rounds and racking up some ugly numbers.

Day had dealt well with the crowd hysteria of playing alongside Woods, dragging himself back from two over to level with the card through 13 holes before play was suspended in darkness on Thursday.

But his green jacket hopes evaporated when he sunk his tee shot into the drink on the 16th, taking double bogey.

Another dropped shot on the last left the former world No.1 signing for a 75.

Scott had a 76, including his own double bogey on the par-5 15th.

Rookie amateur Jasper Stubbs has virtually no hope after posting an eight-over 80 on debut to be equal second from last.