[PHOTO: Getty Images]

Golf great and TV analyst Ian Baker-Finch has cautioned Masters fans to write off a sick and injured Australian contingent at their own risk, backing former Open champion Cameron Smith to lead a six-strong tilt at Augusta National.

Smith was racing the clock to recover from food poisoning that forced him to withdraw from the LIV Golf Miami event last week. But Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion and proud Queenslander, says it could be a blessing in disguise.

“He’s obviously proven he can play well around here, finishing second and shooting four rounds in the 60s,” Baker-Finch said on Wednesday of Smith’s record four rounds at the 2020 Masters when he tied for second. Smith also finished T-5 in 2018 and T-3 in 2022 when he played in the final group.

“Without the cliché of ‘beware the sick golfer’, he just wanted to make sure he was ready for this week,” Baker-Finch added. “Last week didn’t mean as much to him, so he made sure he was ready for this week. He’s definitely got the game and he’s always going to be one of those guys who you think will do well around here. I haven’t asked him personally, ‘How sick are you?’ but he doesn’t look too sick to me. He played OK yesterday and I think he’ll be fine.”

Min Woo Lee, the world No.32 who finished T-2 at the PGA Tour event at Palm Beach, Florida, in late February, suffered a broken finger in his right hand having dropped a dumbbell on it last week while at home in Las Vegas. He then came down with the flu last weekend.

Baker-Finch says it’s a mystery why more Australians than just Adam Scott in 2013 haven’t won at Augusta. Greg Norman was three times a runner-up while more recently, Jason Day (2011) and Smith (2020) have run second.

Pic at Augusta with Aussie hopes
Cam Smith, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Min Woo Lee on the Hogan Bridge at the par-3 12th hole on Tuesday. [Photo: Warren Smith]

“Why did it take 73 years for Scotty to win in 2013 and all of the close calls? I forget how many it is, but it’s well over 20 opportunities,” Baker-Finch said. Greg had seven or eight of them. ‘Pazza’ (Craig Parry) had a couple of chances, never putted well on the back nine. It means so much to us – the mystique, the history of it all. Why Australians haven’t won more is nebulous, there’s no direct answer to it.”

Baker-Finch believes any of the five professionals – Smith, Scott, Day, Lee or Cam Davis – can win the Masters this week.

“It’s about time an Australian won another green jacket. We certainly have the talent and we keep producing great talent… I think it’s inevitable,” he said. Maybe this year Min Woo Lee fires up and does something creative. Smithy, maybe, comes back and does it. Cam Davis has got the game if he can finish it off. He’s thereabouts and wins when he plays great. Maybe he has an opportunity. They all are really a chance.”