DUBLIN, Ohio — Cameron Smith believes he is playing the best golf of his life, and it shows. He is in the lead at the Memorial Tournament, an event in which the 28-year-old Australian doesn't have a great history.
Smith elicited one of the loudest cheers of a glorious afternoon Friday at Muirfield Village — another anomaly for this weather-plagued event — when he holed out with a downhill chip from beyond the green on the par-3 12th that carried him to a 3-under 69.
He kept his one-shot lead over South Korea's K.H. Lee (70) and Denny McCarthy (69) of the United States the rest of the day by doing what Smith does best: He holed a 15-foot putt for par on the next hole and twice made six-foot par putts for bunker saves down the stretch.
"I think I'm just happy with the way I stuck in there," said Smith, who was at 8-under 136 overall. "Really happy with where my short game's at. I feel like I'm rolling the ball really good. Just need to sort out that longer stuff."
He has given himself time to do so. In six previous appearances at the Memorial, Smith made the cut just twice and both times finished outside the top 60. His best round was a 71.
But this is a new Smith, the winner of The Players Championship and the Sentry Tournament of Champions already this year, the No. 3 player in the Official World Golf Ranking. Seeing his name atop the leaderboard heading into the weekend isn't a surprise — not even here.
"I think my game's in a good spot. There's no reason why I shouldn't be," he said. "I'm playing some of the best golf of my life, and I feel I'm getting more consistent with the longer stuff. So just looking forward to everything coming up."
Luke List, one of six players who shared the 18-hole lead, was also one of two Baylor School graduates near the top of the board halfway through the tournament, with Keith Mitchell the other.
List shot a 71 on Friday and was tied for fourth at 6 under with Billy Horschel — who putted for birdie on every hole and made four of them for a 68 — Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas (69) and PGA Tour rookies Davis Riley (71) and Cameron Young (71).
With four bogeys and five birdies, List summed up his round as a "roller coaster," and no stretch showed that better than his closing four holes. The momentum build of three birdies in a row was followed by a bogey on the par-4 ninth.
"Didn't have my best stuff today but fought hard anyway," List said. "And kind of a mixed bag, really, had some good and some bad stuff and kind of put it together. To get under par, I was happy with that."
Mitchell (69) was another stroke back, tied for ninth with Aaron Wise (69), four-time major champion Rory McIlroy (69) and 2018 British Open winner Francesco Molinari (68).
The cut was at 2-over 146, and those missing out on the weekend included 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and Baylor grad Harris English, both returning from injuries. DeChambeau (hand surgery) had not played since the Masters, while English (hip surgery) had not played since the Sony Open in January.
DeChambeau shot 76-77, while English had back-to-back 77s.
Jon Rahm, at No. 2 the highest-ranked player in the field, overcame a shank on the second hole — he made a birdie on the next one — to scratch out a 70 without his best iron game. He was at 2 under, six shots behind.
Rahm won the Memorial in 2020, and he was six shots ahead after three rounds last year until his positive COVID-19 test knocked him out of the final round.
And this year?
"I'm in it. I could have easily shot myself out of it, tried to fight to make the cut. And I was able to save a few holes out there and put myself in an OK spot," Rahm said. "Obviously, coming into the weekend I'm going to need a low score. Hopefully the conditions get difficult and I can manage it. Otherwise tomorrow or Sunday I'm going to need a low one to give myself a chance."
U.S. Women's Open
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Jin Young Ko never seems to stress. Nor does she let up.
The No. 1 player in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings vaulted into contention for a third major championship, playing the final five holes at Pine Needles in 3 under Friday to close out a 4-under 67 and move within three shots of second-round co-leaders Mina Harigae and Minjee Lee at the U.S. Women's Open.
Harigae (69) of the United States and Lee (66) of Australia were at 9-under 133 overall, while three-time major champion Anna Nordqvist (68) of Sweden and South Korea's Hye-Jin Choi (64) were tied for third at 7 under.
South Korea's Ko was fifth at 6 under alongside Swedish amateur Ingrid Lindblad (71).
Ko hasn't won a major since 2019, but she posted five LPGA Tour victories in 2021 and already has a win this year.
"I don't think about winning," Ko said. "I just think about myself and just focus on my game. I just talk with my caddie and have fun."
The cut was at 3 over, and the notable names who missed it include 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam, 51, and Michelle Wie West, the tournament's 2014 winner who said she will play one more event — next year's U.S. Women's Open — before retiring from golf.
Chattanooga's Blakesly Brock, the former Baylor School and University of Tennessee golfer who was in the event for the first time after winning last year's U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur, shot an 81 after opening with an 80.