Yesterday at Royal Portrush Cam’s Smith’s game turned a corner. On Friday at The Open it was full steam ahead.
With six birdies on the day, five of those coming in a seven-hole blitz around the turn, Smith’s second round 5-under-66 has vaulted him up the leaderboard in Northern Ireland.
The Queenslander is at 6-under at the halfway mark of the year’s final men’s major, enough to be inside the top five as he headed to the clubhouse.
At 1-under through 18 holes last night the World No.42 was lamenting – though not panicking over – a series of burned edges and missed opportunities.
But 24 hours later Smith was feeling like his old crafty self again on a golf course that demands imagination and old school feel.
“It was much of the same as yesterday, really, but a few more putts went in today,” Smith said.
“I’m feeling really confident with the putter which is allowing my longer game to free up a little bit.
“I knew that if I could get myself inside 20-foot I’d have a fairly decent look at it.
“That was the game plan today, not necessarily be so attacking, just give myself a chance and some of them went in.”
Once again Smith cited something in his mindset he picked up at the recent Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit that’s helped him end a recent run of poor form.
With a career best Open finish of 78th coming last year this tournament hasn’t been overly kind to him.
But the testing links of Royal Portrush – a layout he was quick to anoint on Monday as his favourite in the Open rota – has brought out the best in Smith this week.
“I was maybe a little bit too technical with my swing,” said Smith.
“I went back to trying to see a shot and hit it which has been nice around here. You have to hit so many different shots.
“It’s typically [a tournament] that I haven’t played my best golf in.
“It’s always nice flying under the radar a little bit, not so much attention. Just being able to do your own thing.”
Fellow Queenslander Jason Day began the second round level with Smith at 1-under but a dramatic back nine collapse, highlighted by six dropped shots in five holes, saw him post a 3-over 74 to be flirting with the cut line.
Day looked an almost certainty to qualify for the weekend at The 2019 Open before a dramatic back nine implosion.
For much of Friday, it seemed the World No.18 would join fellow Queenslander as the only Australians with a weekend tee time at Royal Portrush.
After birdies at 10 and 12, Day was 3-under for the round and 4-under for the tournament.
Standing on the 13th tee, he’d made just one bogey in 30 holes and was only four shots back of then leader JB Holmes.
But everything unravelled over the final six holes for Day and caddy Steve Williams, the 2015 US PGA champ notching four bogeys and a double in the next five holes to torpedo his hopes of lifting the Claret Jug.
Day's week in Northern Ireland ended at 2-over par on the back of a 3-over 74 second round, the cut line holding firm at 1-over.
Day again declined to discuss his round with the media.
Adam Scott needed to go low on Friday afternoon to have any chance of making the cut and a bogey at the par-4 1st set him back.
The 2013 Masters champ responded immediately with back-to-back birdies, but his week effectively ended when he handed those strokes back with bogeys on eight and nine.
An even-par back nine meant Scott eventually carded a 2-over 73 to finish at 9-over for the tournament, missing the cut in a major championship for the first time since last year's US Open.
In another sign he isn’t fully comfortable on the greens, Scott reverted to the long putter after using his shorter flatstick on Thursday.
Earlier, Marc Leishman rounded out a disappointing week with a 1-over-71 second up effort.
The Victorian made one birdie on the front nine but dropped two shots on his way back to the clubhouse, settling at 8-over-par through 36 holes.
Leishman is playing next week in Memphis so he won’t need to wait long for redemption, but the 35-year-old was bitterly disappointed in his two days’ work at a tournament he loves dearly.
“It didn't pan out how I wanted it to. I played terrible both days,” Leishman said.
"I wasn't reading the greens well so I didn't make many putts. My irons were bad, which is normally the strength of my game.
"I drove it okay so that's probably the only positive to take out of the week.
"So pretty disappointing. One of my favourite tournaments of the year so hopefully I'll be back next year and give it another crack.”
Dimi Papadatos was the first Australian on course and he matched Leishman’s effort on Friday, Papadatos improving by 12 strokes overnight to cap off his major championship debut.
Fellow first-timer Jake McLeod will also leave Portrush with a spring in his step after an even-par-71 on Friday kept him at 5-over for the tournament.
The 24-year-old made five birdies, including a sensational hole-out after short-siding himself left of the 14th green.
McLeod’s former Queensland teammate Cam Smith will be the only Australian to qualify for the weekend’s action, following a blistering 5-under 66 that took him into the top five on the standings.
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