On Thursday at Royal Portrush, Cameron’s Smith’s game turned a corner. On Friday at The Open it was full steam ahead.

With six birdies on the day, five of those coming in a seven-hole blitz around the turn, Smith’s second round five-under-66 vaulted him up the leaderboard in Northern Ireland.

The Queenslander sits at six-under at the halfway mark of the year’s final men’s Major, enough to be inside the top five and two strokes behind co-leaders Shane Lowry and J.B. Holmes.

At one-under through 18 holes, the world No.42 was lamenting – though not panicking over – a series of burned edges and missed opportunities. But 24 hours later Smith was feeling like his old crafty self again on a golf course that demands imagination and old school feel.

“It was much of the same as yesterday, really, but a few more putts went in today,” Smith said.

“I’m feeling really confident with the putter which is allowing my longer game to free up a little bit. I knew that if I could get myself inside 20 foot I’d have a fairly decent look at it. That was the game plan today, not necessarily be so attacking, just give myself a chance and some of them went in.”

Once again Smith cited something in his mindset he picked up at the recent Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit that’s helped him end a recent run of poor form.

With a career best Open finish of 78th coming last year, this tournament hasn’t been overly kind to him. But the testing links of Royal Portrush – a layout he was quick to anoint on Monday as his favourite in the Open rota – has brought out the best in Smith this week.

“I was maybe a little bit too technical with my swing,” said Smith. “I went back to trying to see a shot and hit it which has been nice around here. You have to hit so many different shots.

“It’s typically [a tournament] that I haven’t played my best golf in. It’s always nice flying under the radar a little bit, not so much attention. Just being able to do your own thing.”

Fellow Queenslander Jason Day began the second round level with Smith at one-under but a dramatic back-nine collapse, highlighted by six dropped shots in five holes, saw him post a three-over 74 to miss the cut by a shot.

Earlier, Smith’s former state teammate Jake McLeod capped off his major debut in fine fashion with an even-par 71 to remain at 5-over. Sydney’s Dimi Papadatos also dramatically improved on his opening 83 with a one-over 71 on Friday, highlighted by late birdies on 15 and 17. Marc Leishman and Adam Scott both earned weekends off, paying the price for disastrous opening rounds.