Sandwiched between two doubles, Cam Smith feasts into Masters contention

Sandwiched between two doubles, Cam Smith feasts into Masters contention
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – A new Masters sandwich debuted Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club: “The Cam,” eight birdies in between double bogeys.

For 16 holes, Cameron Smith had an appetite for scoring as he played Nos. 2-17 in 8 under with no blemishes. But Nos. 1 and 18 were different stories with Smith going 4 over on those two holes to eventually spoil his chances at the first-round lead.

“Obviously really frustrating; I think it’ll motivate me the next few days,” Smith said of his bookend doubles, which left him with an opening 4-under 68. “I feel like I played some really solid golf today, and to be 4 under is a little bit disappointing. But given the condition of the golf course and the condition with the wind and stuff like that, if you had given me 4 under at the start of the day, I would have taken it.”

Smith entered the week as one of the hottest players in professional golf. Scottie Scheffler, coming off three wins in six starts, recently moved to No. 1 after capturing the WGC-Dell Match Play, but Smith isn’t far behind in the player-of-the-year race. The Aussie took a three-week break following his victory at The Players, one of two wins this season for the world No. 6, who began the year with a record-setting triumph at Kapalua.

Thursday’s lid-lifter could’ve set new marks as well. Smith began his birdie feast by chipping in from 20 feet at the par-4 fifth. He followed by sticking his tee ball at the par-3 sixth to a foot for another birdie. After a poor chip at the par-5 eighth, Smith canned the birdie comebacker from 8 feet, and he then knocked his approach pin high and to 5 feet at the par-4 ninth to turn in 2-under 34.

Full-field scores from the 86 th Masters Tournament

On the second nine, Smith continued to eat with four more birdies. He sank an 11-footer at the par-3 12th, wedged to 4 feet at the par-4 14th, hit a knockdown wedge to 9 feet at the par-5 15th and recorded his third par-3 birdie at No. 16 from 5 feet.

“The par-3s around here are no snack,” Smith said, “but I just felt really comfortable with the irons today.”

It was the driver and wedges rather that cost Smith some shots on Thursday. He found the right bunker on the par-4 first hole and could barely advance his next shot before sailing a wedge shot over the green and failing to make a 7-foot bogey putt.

At the par-4 finishing hole, he blocked himself out behind the right tree line and again couldn’t go for the green in two. Another poor wedge saw his ball spin back to 50 feet, and a three-putt left a sour taste in Smith’s mouth as he trudged to scoring.

“To be honest, those couple of double bogeys really didn’t have too bad of shots in them,” Smith said. “It’s not like I was scratching it out of the trees. Got my second shot into a reasonable spot and just misjudged the wind on both wedges. Yeah, just left myself in a bit of a tough spot.”

Bigger picture, though, Smith likes where he stands. By the time he sat down in the interview room, he said he had “already moved on” from the two glaring errors.

That’s easy to do when one is as hot as Smith is.

He’s prepared well, particularly in the gym these past eight months or so, to survive these marathon major tests. The byproduct of an even split of cardio and weightlifting, Smith has been able to keep fresh over the course off 72 holes and not feel “wrecked” after rounds.

“I think I lost a little bit of weight,” Smith said. “My body moves a little bit quicker when I don’t have so much around my belly. I think I’ve definitely started to see my driver going probably a little bit farther, definitely the swing speed up a little bit. Now, I think the next step is just being able to control that and hit more fairways.”

He’ll need to lay off the sandwiches, too.

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