Cameron Smith and fellow Aussies in the thick of it at PGA’s Memphis tournament

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Australia’s Cameron Smith is nipping at the heels of the leaders at the midway point of the PGA’s St Jude Championship in Memphis.

JJ Spaun made a late birdie for a three-under 67 to take a one-shot lead on Friday in the opening event in the PGA Tour post-season at TPC Southwind.

Spaun is at 11-under 129 and one ahead of Sepp Straka, who birdied his last three holes for a 66, and Troy Merritt (65).

British Open champion and world No.2 Cameron Smith also made his move, rising 25 places to be tied fifth after his 65.

Smith is now at eight under, just three behind Spaun in a group comprising Tony Finau, Ryan Palmer and Brian Harman.

The Queenslander was boosted by an eagle on the par-five 16th and is one ahead of compatriot Adam Scott, who followed his opening 66 with a 67.

With a clear sky, hot sun and a little more wind, Spaun was as proud of his 67 on Friday as his 64 the day before. Mostly, he feels his game is coming around after going into a lull following his first PGA Tour title at the Valero Texas Open in early April.

“It’s so hard to be consistently good at the highest level. Some guys that do it like that, like Tiger (Woods) and (Rory) McIlroy and all those guys. It’s just insane how good they are for so long,” Spaun said.

Marc Leishman shot his second 69 to squeeze in on the two-under cut, but the drama unfolding was with compatriot Cam Davis.

In 66th place in the FedEx Cup standings, Davis was desperate to make the weekend to enhance his chances of advancing in the BMW Championship.

Heading into his final hole, the 27 year-old Sydneysider found himself needing an up-and-down par save to make the cut.

Nerves and skill

Faced with a downhill lie and the green running away from him, it was a test of nerves and skill.

“First look was, ‘Oh, wow, this is going to be fun, and then second thought is, well, I need to find a way to keep this on the green or just give myself a chance that I could par’.

“It came off a little shorter than I was expecting or hoping, but it caught the little downslope on the fringe and it was nice to have a stress-free putt.

“There was relief, yeah. I didn’t want to have to stress over a putt if I could, but anything inside 15 feet was going to be really good and to have a tap-in, it was very nice.”

There was no such joy, however, for Jason Day.

Day opened with a 65 and was hopeful of a big finish to advance into the top 70 to make it to the next playoff event.

Instead, the former world No.1 dropped five shots over the last eight holes, shot 74 and missed the cut by one.

Day was among 31 players who started outside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup and missed the cut, meaning their season is over.

Also out of the tournament are world No.1 Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

-AAP

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