Australian Cameron Smith has burned the back nine at Augusta to charge up the US Masters leaderboard and share a four-way lead at the halfway mark.
Australian Cameron Smith has burned the back nine at Augusta to charge up the US Masters leaderboard and share a four-way lead at the halfway mark.

Aussie rockets to US Masters lead with late blitz

Australian Cameron Smith has surged into contention at the US Masters after a stunning three-hole blitz on the back nine in the second round at Augusta.

Smith is in a four-way tie for the lead after shooting a 4-under 68 which included an eagle on the 15th hole and birdies on 16 and 17 to reach 9-under par 135 at the halfway mark.

Joining him at the top of the leaderboard are Mexico's Abraham Ancer and US pair Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.

"It was a very up and down round, a little bit scrappy," Smith said.

"But hung there and at the end, it was brilliant."

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Johnson, the world No.1, birdied his final hole to shoot 70 to join the lead pack as Thomas closed with back-to-back birdies to shoot a three-under 69.

Ancer, trying to become the first debut Masters winner in 41 years, birdied two of his last four holes to fire 67.

In a rollercoaster round, Johnson birdied his way through Amen Corner after starting from the 10th hole to lead outright before a lapse saw him overtaken by Ancer.

His three birdies on the famed three-hole stretch starting at 11 included an eight-foot putt at the par-3 12th and a four-footer at the par-5 13th to reach 10-under for a four-stroke edge.

But, after a bogey-free opening round, Johnson followed with a three-putt bogey at 14 and sent his approach into the water to bogey the par-5 15th then parred his way to the turn.

Johnson was one of several players who had to complete his opening round on Friday local time because of inclement weather, sinking a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th.

"I like my position going into the weekend," Johnson said.

"Conditions are going to stay relatively the same. You are going to have to stay aggressive. You have to keep shooting well."

A further stroke behind the leading four were England trio Justin Rose, the reigning Olympic champion, Tommy Fleetwood and 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett.

Defending champion Tiger Woods, who matched his best-ever Masters start with a 68, was among the last players to tee off, and was even after eight holes.

Adam Scott was 4-under after 10 holes couldn't keep his momentum going, finishing with an even 70 to drop back to 2-under.

Bryson DeChambeau has made a brutal start to his second round; a triple-bogey, bogey, and a missed eagle putt on the front nine leaving the American at 1-over for the tournament.

The field the lowest opening-round scoring average in Masters history, 71.43 strokes, with 53 players under par in round one and 24 scores in the 60s, both Masters round records.

Germany's 63-year-old Bernhard Langer became the oldest player to make the cut in Masters history, going 68-73 to stand on 141.

An expected 1-under cut line would be the lowest in Masters history.

Originally published as Aussie rockets to Masters lead with late blitz