Cameron Smith could hardly have had a better warm-up for his debut appearance at Augusta National, a blistering 4-under back nine at Golf Club of Houston lifting him inside the top-20 for just the second time this year.
Smith played steady golf at the Shell Houston Open with rounds of 69-72-72-69 but it was his final round, and last nine holes in particular, which will give him the most confidence heading to Georgia.
After a poor start and making the turn 1-over with two bogeys and a birdie, Smith showed the sort of intestinal fortitude which saw him finish T4 at last year's US Open at Chambers Bay.
He opened his back nine with three straight birdies and added a fourth at the difficult par-3 16th to tour the final nine holes in 32 in his final competitive hit out before The Masters.
Above average greens in regulation figures and a positive Strokes Gained Putting statistic bode well for the tricky slopes at Augusta National and Smith will be heading down Magnolia Lane with positive thoughts in his mind.
Of the nine Australians to tee up in Houston only Smith and Steven Bowditch were assured starts at The Masters at the start of the week and without an Australian victory it remained that way.
Bowditch missed the cut and has work to do if he is to have a chance next week but there were encouraging signs for some of the other Australians who've found the going tough this year.
2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy and PGA TOUR rookie Rhein Gibson both made their second cuts for the season, both finishing in red figures for the week for just the second time since January.
Ogilvy played his best golf in the opening round where he posted three birdies against a lone bogey but trod water for the rest of the week with two birdies and two bogies each day to remain 2-under after 72 holes.
Gibson was a little more erratic making five more birdies for the week than Ogilvy but also dropping more shots, including a double bogey at the 18th in the first round.
Stuart Appleby also made a double at the final hole though his mistake, unfortunately, came in the final round after some fighting play had got him to 3-under for the day and a chance to finish in the top-25.
While not the finish he was looking for his performance for the week was encouraging as he battles to earn the roughly $600,000 required to keep his card as he plays the year on a medical exemption.
John Senden was the final Australian to make the cut and after three solid rounds had a disappointing back nine Sunday to drop down the standings.
A triple bogey six at the par-3 14thwas the lowlight of the week but in a season where he has missed as many cuts as he has made to date, playing the weekend is a positive.
The surprise of the week was the play of Aaron Baddeley who has shown good form much of the year as he tries to win back his full card.
Despite a good record at the Golf Club of Houston Baddeley limped to a second round 75 to miss the cut for just the fourth time in 12 starts since the season began last October.
Former winner Matt Jones and Robert Allenby were the final two Australians in the field and they joined Baddeley in missing the cut by a single stroke.
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