Fear the Mullet: Cameron Smith from Down Under again in contention, is atop the leaderboard at Memorial

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DUBLIN, Ohio – The mullet has become one of the most feared sights in golf.

Cameron Smith, the Aussie lad who’s let his hair go in honor of his rugby league boys down in Australia, has become a nearly weekly threat on the PGA Tour.

This week, he’s at Muirfield Village Golf Club for The Memorial.

And the Aussie is at it again.

The reigning Players Championship winner and world No. 3 is at the top of the leaderboard once again following rounds of 67-69 that left him at 8 under on Friday. Smith, who held a share of the lead after 18, is in control of all aspects of his game, from his mental approach to all the clubs in his bag.

He’s playing so well that he expects to be on the first page of the leaderboard.

Memorial: PGA Tour streaming on ESPN+

“I think my game’s in a good spot. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be,” Smith 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.

“I think mentally I’m in a really good spot. I feel as though I’m getting more and more consistent week in, week out. I just try to hit the right shots every time. Even if I’m uncomfortable, I know what the right shot is, and I’m committed to trying to hit that shot and that’s just a really good place to be in.”

It’s the latest strong effort from Smith. He won the 2022 opener in record fashion at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Then the man who loves to fish reeled in the whale otherwise known as The Players Championship for his fifth PGA Tour title, all coming since 2017.

He also tied for third in this year’s Masters and was in contention late before fading at the end to finish in a tie for 13th in the PGA Championship.

And Smith is the only player in Masters history to post all four rounds in the 60s, as he did in finishing runner-up to Dustin Johnson in 2020.

A stroke back at 7 under are Denny McCarthy, one of the game’s best putters, and K.H. Lee, who won earlier this year at the AT&T Byron Nelson. McCarthy has posted 68-69, Lee 67-70.

A large group is at 6 under, including Cameron Young (67-71), Davis Riley (67-71), Jhonattan Vegas (69-69), Luke List (67-71) and Billy Horschel (70-68).

At 5 under is Rory McIlroy, who is looking for his first Memorial trophy to add to his four pieces of hardware from major championships and two from his FedEx Cup titles.

Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the ninth fairway rough during the second round of the Memorial Tournament. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ve hit it in the fairway pretty often,” McIlroy said. “As it firms up, I think just the premiums on ball-striking, hitting fairways and hitting greens. If you can do that around here, you’re going to have a chance.

“I’m expecting by tomorrow it will probably get back to as firm as it was sort of those Monday/Tuesday practice rounds. It was surprisingly firm then. And I think that’s the way they want to play it around here, is to try to get it as firm and fast as possible. Looks like the weather forecast is going to allow that to happen.”

And if he were to add The Memorial to his resume?

“I think it’s a special moment in anyone’s career being able to walk up the hill and get that handshake (from Jack Nicklaus). I’d love to win here,” he said. “I won at Bay Hill at Arnold’s place, but I was never able to get that handshake because Arnold passed away a couple years before. It makes it extra special when you’re able to win a tournament, whether it’s hosted by Jack or Arnold or any of the greats in the game.”

Muirfield Village likely will firm up over the weekend, as the forecast calls for sun and heat, and let’s face it, a firm course is what Nicklaus wants. If conditions do toughen, Smith will be ready.

“I’d love a firm and fast golf course,” he said. “I think growing up in Australia, Aussies love that. I don’t think it’s going to be too windy over the weekend. So they can really kind of let this course get nice and firm.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge.”