Smith hopes to prove he belongs atop The Open leaderboard

By Jerry Briggs
For the JB Replay

The first seven names atop the leaderboard at the 150th Open Championship include some of the world’s most accomplished golfers. Major championship winners. Title holders who have experienced the feeling of holding the world’s No. 1 ranking. Legends who have collected vast amounts of prize money.

Australia native Cameron Smith can’t check off all of those boxes. But he does have something that the others would like to achieve. It is the ‘No. 1’ aside his name among leaders of a prestigious tournament that reached the halfway point Friday on the Old Course, at St. Andrews, Scotland.

Smith, from Brisbane, Australia, paces the field at 13-under par going into Saturday’s third round. He leads by two strokes over Cameron Young, a PGA Tour rookie from New York, and by three over two others, including crowd favorite Rory McIlroy, the world’s second-ranked player who has won four major championship titles.

Other major winners in striking distance include Dustin Johnson, who is in fifth place, four shots off the pace, and Scottie Scheffler, a former University of Texas standout, who is five back and in a two-way tie for sixth.

Yes, it is true that Young (-11), McIlroy and Viktor Hovland (both -10), Johnson (-9) and Scheffler and Tyrell Hatton (both -8) all have enjoyed hot streaks and have wowed the galleries this week at St. Andrews. None, however, have matched the overall sizzle and consistency that Smith has displayed in the past few days.

Smith, in fact, has produced a two-day score of 131 that is the best in the history of the Open at St. Andrews after the opening two rounds. His 36-hole score is better by one stroke than the 132 posted by Nick Faldo and Greg Norman in 1990 and matched in 2010 by Louis Oosthuizen.

After Friday’s drama, Smith told reporters in Scotland that he would try to relax between now and his afternoon tee time Saturday. He said he’d go out to dinner with countryman Adam Scott to celebrate Scott’s birthday. He said he’d come back to his hotel and watch “Peaky Blinders,” a British drama about gangsters in the early 20th century.

One online review says of “Peaky Blinders,” that it’s a “resounding victory for style over substance.” So be it. Smith will take it all in, sleep late on Saturday and then perhaps go to the gym for a morning workout. The man with both the style and the substance in his game will then report to St. Andrews. Still looking for his first major title, the No. 6 player in the world is in charge of the 150th Open Championship until further notice.

Ultimately, by Sunday, the 28-year-old resident of Jacksonville, Fla., hopes to hoist the Claret Jug trophy, to boost that ranking just a little bit, and to cement his legacy among those considered the best in the game.