2020 runners-up Smith and Im back in Masters contention

AUGUSTA, Ga., April 9 (Reuters) — Cameron Smith and Im Sung-jae found themselves in familiar territory going into the final round of the Masters, hoping this time to script a different ending.

Two years ago, Australian Smith and South Korean Im tied for second behind American Dustin Johnson in a surreal November Masters played in front of only a smattering of spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions.

There will be a full house this year as Smith starts the final round three shots behind American leader Scottie Scheffler, with Im five strokes off the pace.

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Smith and Im were four shots behind Johnson after 54 holes in 2020, ultimately finishing five back.

If world number one Scheffler is the hottest player on the planet, Smith isn’t far behind, winner of last month’s $20 million Players Championship, the richest event ever played.

«I can get it done, I guess, when I’m up against the best guys in the world,» Smith said when asked what he had learned from his recent success.

«It’s a good feeling to have. It’s earned. It’s not given to you. I’m going to have to go out there tomorrow and play really good golf again, probably similar to today.

«Hopefully, everything just falls into place. I can’t control what anyone else is going to do tomorrow, so just go out there and really focus on myself.»

He was speaking after shooting four-under-par 68, the only player to break 70 in very demanding conditions.

A Smith victory would be the second by an Australian, after Adam Scott in 2013.

Former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley likes Smith’s chances.

«You mightn’t say he’s a huge winner in terms of tournament wins, (but) he doesn’t overcomplicate the game and focuses on things that are really important, (namely) shooting good scores,» McGinley said on Golf Channel.

«Smith at this moment in time is a guy I’d be worried about.»

Im, meanwhile, would be the first South Korean to earn a Green Jacket.

The golfer, who pauses at the top of his backswing for so long that one might think the TV feed had frozen, made his move with four back-nine birdies in a 71.

Further back, seven shots off the pace, were major champions Charl Schwartzel and Shane Lowry, both shooting 73.

Schwartzel had the shot of the day, spinning a 136-yard approach shot back into the cup for eagle at the 10th, but went backwards from there with four bogeys coming home.

«Just had a real poor day with the putter,» he said.

Said Lowry: «I’m obviously very disappointed.»

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Reporting by Andrew Both; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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