Cameron Smith.
Cameron Smith has set his sights on overcoming a recent illness to tee up at the Masters. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS
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Ailing Smith ‘getting there’ as he hits Augusta

Darren Walton April 9, 2024

Cameron Smith has emerged from his sick bed to ease concerns over his Masters participation with a light practice session at Augusta National.

After withdrawing before the second round of LIV Golf Miami at the weekend with food poisoning, Smith spent about an hour chipping and putting on Monday (Tuesday AEST).

Australia’s 2022 British Open champion and 2020 Masters runner-up had been among the pre-tournament favourites for the season’s first major before falling ill.

But after telling well wishers he was “getting there”, Smith planned to have his first practice round on Tuesday before showing Australian rookie Jasper Stubbs around the famous course on Wednesday.

With three top fives and a top 10 from his past five appearances, including a third two years ago while playing in the final group on Sunday, Smith will still fancy his chances if he recovers full health before Thursday’s opening round.

Cameron Smith.
 Cameron Smith launches a drive at the 2023 Australian PGA Championship in Brisbane. Image by HANDOUT/PGA OF AUSTRALIA 

The former world No.2 headlines a six-strong Australian challenge also featuring fellow former runner-up Jason Day, 2013 champion Adam Scott, emerging superstar Min Woo Lee, Cam Davis and Stubbs.

A wide-eyed Stubbs fronted the biggest press conference of his life at Augusta on Monday and said he was expecting a week like never before.

Perched on site in the Crow’s Nest, one of the perks of winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne last October to punch his ticket to Augusta, Stubbs is savouring every minute of his major debut.

But the 22-year-old admits he’ll undoubtedly be a nervous wreck when he heads to the first tee come tournament time.

“Coming to Augusta, it’s obviously always spoken highly about how perfect it is, and it definitely lives up to that expectation,” Stubbs said.

“Magnolia Lane with the flowers out is an amazing sight. The crowds is the thing that’s going to be the biggest eye opener for me, that’s going to be different to any other week that I’ve ever experienced.”

He hopes the drama and tension of winning a playoff at Royal Melbourne just to make it to the Masters will help.

Jasper Stubbs.
 Jasper Stubbs celebrates last year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship win in Melbourne. Image by HANDOUT/ASIA PACIFIC AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP 

“It was obviously a pretty nerve-wracking week, having the opportunity to win the tournament and get a ticket to the Masters,” he said.

“And then obviously when you’re in a playoff, it elevates that because you’re one of three left in the field.

“So that was a different experience, and I think I handled it pretty well.

“Then it sunk in, yeah, probably a month and a half later when I finally received my invitation, and that was a very special moment shared with my family.

“I waited for my parents to get home from work, and we opened it all together as a family.

“There were five of us in the room at the time. We were FaceTiming my brother, who was out of the house at the time.

“We all shared that family moment together, and it was a lot of screaming and cheering that it was finally here. And that’s when it sunk in.”

Stubbs’ first goal is to make the halfway cut. Low amateur honours are also in his sights.

Like Royal Melbourne, Augusta National is an Alister MacKenzie-designed layout, which Stubbs hopes might help also.

“They’re both pretty similar in the way that they’re both very firm and fast greens,” he said.

“The course is a bit hillier here from the fairways. But definitely, once you’re on the greens, Royal Melbourne and Augusta are pretty close in how fast you can get a downhill putt and how much they break.

“So it’s pretty good to have played a lot of golf there, and I’ve got a bit of knowledge from playing there.”