Runner-up Ancer, Im and Smith carry the nations’ hopes for Masters

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© Reuters. The master

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By Andrew Both

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Mexican Abraham Ancer and South Korean Im Sung-jae can make history for their respective countries at the Masters on Sunday, while Australian Cameron Smith could write another memorable chapter for a proud golfing nation.

The trio, who were teammates in the 2019 International Presidents Cup team, will start the finals at Augusta National on Sunday, four strokes behind leaders Dustin Johnson.

While it’s a significant deficit, the odds are that at least one is playing well enough to add at least a little warmth to the American.

Ancer and Im would be the first from their nations to slip into the famous green jacket, while Smith would be the second Australian after Adam Scott (2013).

Ancer isn’t the longest batsman, but he was so impressive in his first Masters.

Not that he sounded particularly confident about wavering in Johnson.

“We know we have to go low and that’s it,” he said after a three-under-par-69, speaking for himself and the other challengers.

“It’s very easy. We just have to do a lot of birdies. I mean, if DJ goes out there and plays as solidly as he does today, it’ll be next to impossible to catch him.

“It’s not going to be easy, but you know whatever has to be done out there has to be very special.”

Fellow Masters debutante Im shot 68 and said he felt he knew the course well even though he had never played here before.

“I’ve watched the Masters grow up so many times that I feel like I’m used to this place, even though this is my first time,” said Im, whose backswing is so deliberate that a slow game warning might be issued.

“I just want to stay calm, stick to my game plan, try to minimize as many mistakes as possible and hopefully get a good result.”

Smith, who also shot 69, is an Augusta veteran compared to Ancer and Im as this is his fourth champion.

Excitement barely begins to describe his feelings.

“I mean, that’s what we dream of,” he said. “That’s why we want to play. I just can’t wait until tomorrow.”

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