It was a mere 28 days ago that Cameron Smith stood on the 17th tee at TPC Sawgrass with a chance to become a Players champion. The sixth-ranked player in the world took dead aim and made birdie at the famous par 3 to put an exclamation point on his fifth PGA Tour win.
Things played out a little differently on the par-3 12th Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club.
Smith walked to the 12th tee with all the momentum after a birdie at the difficult par-4 11th had cut Scottie Scheffler’s lead to three. It was the closest Smith had been since he walked off the fourth green after a bogey at the par 3.
With the honor on the tee and a 9-iron in his hands, Smith made what he called “just a really bad swing” that sent his Titleist Pro V1x plunging into Rae’s Creek.
“Probably one of the worst swings of the week and just at the worst time of the week,” Smith said after his round. “Yeah, just unfortunate, but I'll grow from this and be stronger for it.”
While it would be easy to assume Smith just got a little aggressive in trying to mount a comeback, he insisted he wasn’t trying to go at the pin.
“It was actually a really good number,” Smith said. “It was a really nice 9-iron. Wasn't even trying to go near that pin, and, yeah, just a really poor swing.”
After taking a drop 87 yards from the hole, Smith missed long and right of the green with his third shot, and was unable to get up-and-down from there.
A triple-bogey 6 dropped The Players champion to 4 under for the week and virtually eliminated him from contention at the 86th Masters.
Smith managed to play his final six holes in 1 under par, which resulted in a tie for third alongside 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry. It’s his third top-five finish at the Masters since 2018.
With another close call at Augusta National, how does Smith deal with watching someone else don the green jacket once again?
“I feel like I've played some of my best golf around here,” Smith said. “It's quite frustrating, I guess, to not walk away with a win yet, but at the same token, I look forward to the challenge of coming back here next year and trying to do it again.”