Cameron Smith calmly rolled in a birdie putt from just short of three metres at the last hole to secure his place in the next round of the World Golf Championship Dell Matchplay in Texas today, but his rewards are even greater than that.
The Australian needed the half point that he picked up to half the match against Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato, who was one-up on the 18th tee.
But by reaching the top 16 in the $US10 million event, Smith has ensured that his top-50 world ranking is in place; in fact, he is projected to jump at least into the 40s from No. 50 last week. All of which means that he is now virtually guaranteed a place in the Masters tournament at Augusta National in less than a fortnight.
Smith has played the Masters before – he was there in 2015 – but he was hellbent on getting back to the storied venue for the season’s first major.
He will play European star Tyrrell Hatton in the next round of the matchplay tomorrow.
"That's pretty big not having to do a playoff to get into the weekend,’’ said the Queenslander. “That was kind of on my mind the last four or five holes there. To bring one back on the last hole was pretty special. … I feel as though I've had three really tough matches. All three days I've played really well. The putter got a little bit cold there towards the end, kept hitting lips, but nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of practice.’’
Smith, 24, is the only Australian to reach the top 16. Marc Leishman, who halved his match against South Africa’s Branden Grace, was already out of contention after losing the first two rounds at Austin Country Club, and Jason Day lost his match against Louis Oosthuizen to drop out of the reckoning.
Day had a chance until the 17th hole today when the South African dropped a birdie putt to put him one down. The Australian had to win the match outright to get into a playoff with Jason Dufner from the United States from that group, so the 18th became largely irrelevant to him, and he shook hands with Oosthuizen once he missed his birdie putt.