Smith a record-setting Masters runner-up

Australian Cameron Smith is the first player to shoot four rounds in the 60s at the Masters, yet it was not enough to claim the green jacket.

CAMERON SMITH of Australia plays a shot during the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii.
CAMERON SMITH of Australia plays a shot during the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. Picture: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

You have to feel for Cameron Smith.

Augusta National has had some incredible players grace its fairways over 84 Masters Tournaments but not even Tiger Woods, nor Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player have achieved what Smith did on Sunday.

No one has.

Smith became the first player in Masters history to record four rounds in the 60s at Augusta National on his way to a 15-under 273 total.

His 67-68-69-69 will forever be folklore and it was a performance, driven by a scrambling masterclass, that would have won 77 of the 84 Masters ever played.

But on this particular week the Australian ran into an American juggernaut called Dustin Johnson.

Amazingly, the best-ever total score for a runner-up, which he shared with South Korean Sungjae Im, was a distant five shots off the pace.

Johnson withstood a fierce early challenge from Im and Smith to close with a four-under 68 to finish as a five-stroke winner of the COVID-19 postponed Masters.

The world No.1's 20-under total was the equal-lowest under-par score in major championship history.

"That's pretty harsh to get that record and not win," three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo said of Smith's achievement.

Smith said he was unaware he was playing for the history books when for the second day in a row he made some clutch pars from tough spots on the run home.

Smith ranked 46th of the 60 players who made the cut in accuracy from the tee and 37th on approach.

But he was eighth in scrambling and second in putting.

"It would have been cool to do that and win. I was actually saying I'd take 15-under around here the rest of my career and I might win a couple," Smith said.

"I honestly can't believe it, but I put it down to scrambling and digging deep.

"It's just the way it is. Credit to DJ. He was just too good this week."

Smith started four shots behind but cut the lead to two shots by the turn thanks in part to two of the best birdies of his career.

The 27-year-old applied pressure when it looked more likely he was about to fold.

Facing what appeared a certain punch out to, at best, a greenside bunker on the seventh, Smith saw a tiny window up through the tree branches.

He took the gamble and flew the ball onto the green before converting a three-metre birdie.

"I wasn't here to finish second," Smith told AAP of his decision to take on the hero shot despite their being plenty of golf left to play.

"I knew I had to keep the pressure on Dustin. There was a small gap up there. The club was pretty good. Just had to hit it really hard and it turned out well."

Smith then hit a brilliant approach from the pine straw on the par-four ninth to a metre and nailed the putt to be within two of the lead.

But a bogey on the par-4 11th sent him scuttling and, despite another brilliant up and down on the 15th for birdie, Johnson pulled away.

"I felt as though I needed to shoot three or four under on that back nine," he said.

"I still felt I had a chance after 15 if I birdied the last four... it would at least make him think about it. But it wasn't to be."

Marc Leishman was the next-best Australian, flying home with a 68 to finish in a tie for 13th at eight under.

Adam Scott, the 2013 champion, closed with a 73 to finish in a share of 34th. while fellow former world No.1 Jason Day and amateur Lukas Michel missed the halfway cut.