Thanks to some typical fine scrambling, Cameron Smith has the straight ahead of the Memorial Tournament going into the weekend.
The 28-year-old backed up his opening round five-under to shoot a three-under 69 at Ohio’s Muirfield Village Golf Club.
It means Smith has a one-shot lead halfway through, nicely eight-under as he aims for a third win this year.
The highlight of his round came on the par-3 12th, when Smith joined from just off the green and showed all the touches in the world.
Smith then consolidated at 13 with a massive par-save from the edge of the green.
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Smith only wants to become the second player – and the first since Tiger Woods in 2001 – to win both The Players Championship and Memorial Tournament in the same season.
The Australian said his scrambling saved him as his driver continued to cause headaches again.
“I’m playing some of the best golf of my life,” said the Queenslander. “I think I’m in a good place mentally. I have a few things to tidy up with my longer stuff.
“I think scrambling was just really good (was the hallmark of my lap).
“They were two different stories, the front and back nine for me. I flushed it on the front nine and (had) a few mistakes off the tee and into the greens on the back nine and just sat there and only a few really solid up and down. †
The Memorial Tournament hasn’t always been kind to Smith, with his best finish being 65th.
But he said the confidence in his game and the extra time with the driver in the run-up to the tournament paid off.
“I feel like I’ve prepared pretty well for this week,” he said.
“Obviously I’m very comfortable with my game, I’m very confident in my game, but this place is always difficult for me as the driver isn’t really coming straight at me. So I really worked on that last week and gave myself as many birdie chances as I can, and just got some good shots.
“Not much really, just hit a few more balls. I tend to hit pretty lazy balls, by the time I get to drive I generally want to go home so I just hung out for 15-20 minutes longer and hit a few drivers. †
South Korea’s Denny McCarthy and Lee Kyoung-hoon lead the chasing pack behind Smith, one of the speed at seven under.
Billy Horschel is fourth with six-under, while big winners Francesco Molinari and Rory McIlroy are firmly in the hunt for five-under, while Joaquin Niemann is one shot further back.
McIlroy, meanwhile, was left frustrated after a runoff that fluctuated between brilliance—an eagle three on the par-five fifth—to bogeys in eighth, 11th and 14th.
“I think it’s happening around here,” McIlroy said. “It’s going to be tough and you’re going to make bogeys wherever they go.
“All in all, two solid rounds of golf, into battle into the weekend. Happy with how things are going.”
Patrick Cantlay, Will Zalatoris and Shane Lowry are three-under, while Jon Rahm is two-under.
However, the day was not so great for US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau.
The powerful American missed the cut on a five-over, leaving him with nine-over in the first two rounds.
He was seen on the driving range hours after his disappointing return from wrist surgery.
World no.3 Smith was the only Australian in the field to underperform for a day, with Jason Day the second best placed Aussie by one over and tied for 48th. Adam Scott, Lucas Herbert and Cam Davis are one more shot back at two-over, while Marc Leishman, Matt Jones and Min Woo Lee struggled to finish five-over.
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