Cameron Smith has not only secured his place in the field for the Masters but given notice of his talent as a player with his quarter-final appearance at the World Golf Championship Dell Matchplay in Texas.
The 24-year-old Australian, winner of the Australian PGA Championship last year and a former national amateur champion, found himself in the top eight with the world’s best players at Austin Country Club but ultimately lost to Alex Noren of Sweden, 4 and 2.
On a day when all the players had to endure two matches, Smith had beaten Tyrrell Hatton of England in a sensational round of 16 match earlier to reach the quarter-final.
Coming into the week ranked exactly 50th in the world – meaning he was on the cusp of Masters qualification – Smith’s victories mean that he will stay in the field for Augusta National, where he has played once previously in 2015.
He will be at a career-high ranking in the 40s when the list comes out next week, having picked up more than $US300,000 prizemoney for a top-eight finish in Texas.
Noren dominated him in the quarter-final, skipping to the lead and never giving it up until the Austrlaian conceded the 16th hole to the Swede. But in the quarter-final Smith shot eight-under par through 17 holes against Hatton. "I knew I was coming up against one of the best players in the world today and he proved that,’’ he said later. “The conditions were a touch easier, the greens were a little bit softer. So nice for some good scoring. But I still played really well, and it's good to get on."
Smith has won once on the US PGA Tour, in a teams event with Jonas Blixt last year. He will join Adam Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman in a four-man Australian contingent at Augusta National next week.
World No. 2 Justin Thomas continued his unbeaten run today meaning that he is just one victory away from overtaking Dustin Johnson to be world No. 1 for the first time. Thomas, who plays Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, is guaranteed top position if he so much as reaches the final in Texas.
Noren will play Kevin Kisner in the other semi-final.
Justin Thomas (USA) v Bubba Watson (USA)
Alex Noren (Sweden) v Kevin Kisner (USA)