Rankings boost hands Smith Augusta start
CAMERON Smith is desperate to improve on his Masters debut after securing an invitation to Augusta National through the final world rankings window.
The 24-year-old Smith was guaranteed his second career start at the Masters courtesy of progressing to the final eight at last week's World Golf Championships-Match Play, where he needed to remain inside the world's top 50 when the field was all but finalised.
He joins fellow Aussies Jason Day, 2013 champion Adam Scott and Marc Leishman in an 87-man Masters field - the smallest assembled in 20 years.
Improving to world No.44, Smith capped one of the latest bids for a Masters berth by an Australian since Matt Jones chipped in during extra holes to win the 2014 Houston Open - clinching the final spot in the Augusta field.
However, Brisbane native Smith is the first Australian to earn a Masters ticket from the final rankings cut-off since Tasmania's Mathew Goggin snuck into the 2009 Masters field in that category.
Smith made the cut and tied for 55th on his Masters debut in 2016, but has since cemented his status on the US PGA Tour with a maiden victory at the Zurich Classic.
He also claimed a first professional title on home soil last year at the Australian PGA Championship.
Smith's best finish at the majors is a tie for fourth at the 2015 US Open, but he says he's hungry to contend at Augusta.
"I love the place - I think every golfer does. I just want to go there and make some progress on the last time," Smith said.
"I feel I left a lot of shots out there (in 2016) and knowing the course a little better, hopefully I can give it a better shake up."
Smith's coach, Grant Field, will be among a contingent of friends and family travelling from Queensland to his Jacksonville, Florida base en route to the Masters.
"I'll be doing some extensive work on my own at (his TPC Sawgrass practice base) before Grant comes over this weekend and we will head up to Augusta together to do our preparation there," Smith said.
Smith was among four players added to the field from the top 50 in the rankings, along with Japan's Satoshi Kodaira, Dylan Frittelli of South Africa and American Chez Reavie.
That brings the field to 86 with one spot still available in this week's Houston Open, with the winner given a spot if he is not already eligible. The 1998 Masters had 88 players.