Cameron Smith can win Masters: Els

Ben Everill
·3-min read

World Golf Hall of Fame member and four-time major champion Ernie Els has endorsed young Australian Cameron Smith as capable of overcoming a stacked leaderboard to win the Masters.

Els, who famously went five straight years at Augusta National finishing inside the top six without winning a green jacket, captained the International Presidents Cup team at Royal Melbourne last year of which Smith was a member.

The team bonded unlike any International team before and went close to pulling off an almighty upset against a superstar US team led by playing captain and defending Masters champion Tiger Woods.

As such, Els says he's not in the least bit surprised to see Smith, and five other members of his 12-man squad, currently inside the top 10 on the leaderboard.

Smith is part of a four-way tie at the top at nine under in a weather-affected second round.

"All of the guys from my team are capable of winning and that includes Cam. He was brilliant in singles beating Justin Thomas so he knows what he can do," Els told AAP.

"If you listen to the coverage, not many people are giving these guys a chance but let me tell you they have shown their capabilities and have found some enormous confidence in themselves in recent times.

"Hopefully they all keep the doggedness for the weekend, which I am sure they will, as they have all got a chance to win the green jacket now and that would be great."

Smith moved into top spot with an incredible finish on Friday. Having finished off his rain-delayed first round with a five-under 67, he then tore up the finishing holes in his second round.

The two-time PGA Tour winner closed eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie to shoot a four-under 68 for a nine-under 135 halfway total.

"I just like being tested. I feel like my game is best when I have to think a lot and hit the right shots," Smith said.

"It's obviously good to be in contention on a weekend, and I feel like I've been there enough where I can have a good crack at it."

The 27-year-old has featured at the business end of majors before, finishing fifth at the 2018 Masters and tied fourth in the 2015 US Open on debut.

With world No.1 Dustin Johnson and Thomas part of the tie at the top, he knows he will need to keep his foot down.

"My best golf is right up there. It's the stuff in between that gets me," Smith said.

"Those guys are just so good at getting the most out of their game all the time, and that's something I need to learn to do.

"But I feel like when I'm playing really good golf, I can be right up there."

Countryman Marc Leishman, meanwhile, will be trying to replicate something similar when he returns to complete his second round on Saturday morning.

Leishman is four under with four to play and has a six-foot birdie attempt on the 15th to come.

Adam Scott had a different type of time at the 15th. He found the water in front of the green twice during his first round, the second time after his shot bounced into the flagstick and ricocheted backwards.

The resulting double bogey halted his momentum and the 2013 champion sits two under through two rounds.

Jason Day is even par with eight holes remaining while amateur Lukas Michel is six over with three to play and set to miss the cut.