Cruel luck stalls Smith's Olympic charge

Australia's Cameron Smith has produced a birdie blitz to loom large in the Olympic golf tournament.
Australia's Cameron Smith has produced a birdie blitz to loom large in the Olympic golf tournament.

A cruel late blow has left Cameron Smith cursing his luck after the Australian No.1 had rocketed into medal contention with a major move during the second round of the Olympic men's golf championship.

Smith carded a birdie-filled four-under-par 67 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club on Friday to revive his hopes of jagging a place on the podium.

But he could have been so much higher up the leaderboard than in a tie for 19th - and six shots off the pace - if not for some rotten luck at the last.

Smith pulled his approach shot out of the rough into the - ironically mostly empty - stands and watched his ball, incredibly, ricochet sideways into the water.

He wound up taking a dreaded double-bogey six to tumble from well inside the top 10 in a true dinner spoiler if ever there was one.

"That was pretty unfortunate," he said.

"I was trying to get it down there on the left but the rough caught the heel (of the club) a little bit and it went a little bit further than I anticipated."

After starting the day eight back after a ho-hum even-par first round, Smith had been only three strokes adrift of the lead walking to the 18th tee.

But he departed the scorers' hut with his deficit doubled after Mexican on-course leader Carlos Ortiz compounded Smith's misery moments later with a birdie at the 11th hole.

Chilean Mito Pereira signed for a six-under 65 to share the clubhouse lead with Swede Alex Noren (67) with an eight-under 134 halfway total.

Smith had been steaming towards matching, or maybe even bettering, Sepp Straka's first-day Olympic-record-equalling round of 63 before more thunderstorms forced a 90-minute suspension of play.

With six birdies in his first 14 holes, the 2020 Masters runner-up had surged from equal 41st overnight into a share of fifth spot.

But the delay halted Smith's momentum, with the Queenslander making his first bogey of the day immediately after the resumption, then racking up his number at the last.

"It was a pretty frustrating to get called in like and then to finish like that is annoying, kind of crappy." Smith said.

"I felt like I did a lot of good stuff and didn't get the most out of my round."

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, with a 66, fellow Irishman Shane Lowry (65) and Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond were all safely in the clubhouse at seven under, three behind Ortiz, who still had a third of his round to complete.

Smith's Australian teammate Marc Leishman was two over par and back in a tie for 55th in the 60-man field midway through his second round.

Australian Associated Press