(Reuters) - Quiet Australian achiever Cameron Smith was the lone bright spot on a poor day for a proud golf nation, sneaking within two strokes of halfway leaders Shane Lowry and J.B. Holmes at the British Open on Friday.
Smith adopted a more free-flowing attitude after some recent poor form, and was rewarded with a five-under-par 66 at Royal Portrush.
He was the only Australian to make the halfway cut, with major champions Adam Scott and Jason Day the most prominent among those headed home early.
“I was maybe a little too technical with my swing (recently) and just went back to trying to see a shot and hit it, which has been nice around here,” Smith said after posting a six-under 136 total.
“You have to hit so many different shots. A few putts went in today, which was nice.”
World number 42 Smith is used to playing without any fanfare, and is happy to let his clubs do the talking.
The 25-year-old from Brisbane failed to shine in his previous two Open appearances, and was perhaps a little surprised to find himself so close to the lead.
“An Open Championship, definitely it’s typically one I haven’t played my greatest golf in,” he said.
“It’s always nice when I’m under the radar a little bit, not so much attention, just being able to do your own thing really and do the stuff that you need to do.”
Smith was part of a small six-man Australian contingent, the smallest in decades from a traditionally powerful golf nation that has won the Open nine times in all — Peter Thomson (five), Greg Norman (two), Kel Devlin and Ian Baker-Finch all lifting the Claret Jug at least once.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Writing by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Christian Radnedge