Cameron Smith after one of his two Australian PGA Championships to date – photo Bruce Young
Cameron Smith takes to the fairways of RACV Royal Pines Resort on Thursday morning in pursuit of a place in Australian golf history.
While several golfers (Dan Soutar, Norman Von Nida, Kel Nagle, Billy Dunk and Robert Allenby) have won more than three Australian PGA Championship titles, only Dan Soutar in 1907 has completed three in succession and Smith feels good enough about his game for the quest to join Soutar to be a realistic one.
“I feel pretty confident in my game,” said Smith before his first look at the course in 2019. “It’s probably the best I’ve felt with my iron play all year, and to do it on such a challenging layout last week, you know, against some of the best players in the world was quite good. Yeah, I can’t wait for this week. I’m feeling good.”
Smith was of course referring to his debut at the Presidents Cup where he recorded an impressive victory over Justin Thomas on Sunday.
So why is it that Smith has been able to win this event in the past two years, the victories his only individual titles in six-year career to date?
“I like the golf course obviously. I play well around here. It’s just such a good week for me off the golf course, lots of family and friends and everything. One team of members come down, so the support is really good throughout the week. I don’t know, it’s just a good kind of cruisey week. I don’t do much off the golf course and just go and hang out. Yeah, just feel relaxed.
Smith hails from Brisbane, an hour north and played his amateur golf at both the Wantima and Royal Queensland Golf Clubs in that city.
“I think you have to be pretty pinpoint with your irons into the greens. It’s not difficult off the tee, the fairways are quite generous. You can be the big guy and hit the drivers and stuff if you want, if you’re feeling good.
“But I think you have to really control your irons and into the wind around here, as you know, it’s always windy around here. So, I think that’s been the big thing the last couple years is I’ve just been able to hit those three‑quarter shots and those low shots and stuff and control them.”
So, is iron play Smith’s strength?
“I think it was at some points through the year. It kind of went out the window a little bit, but I’m starting to feel really confident with that again. Typically, when my irons are on, I play really good golf, so it kind of takes the stress off, you know, the putter and the driver knowing that you’re going to get chances. Yeah, it’s just easy golf, I guess. It’s not stressful at all.”
Smith was asked what goals he has in store for 2020 and mentioned that he would like to achieve what he had set out to do in 2019.
“Probably the same as last year. I didn’t quite get to the top‑20 in the world. I wanted to do that all year and didn’t quite make it. I think I got down to maybe 25 or 26 or something like that at the start of the year. But I definitely want to get in there. I feel like that’s the next kind of big step. But it’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of good results, but I’m willing to do that.”
Speaking of goals, is the opportunity to become the first player in 112 years and only the second in history to win this event on three consecutive occasions a goal this week?
“I mean, especially being in my backyard essentially. It will be really nice. I haven’t really ‑‑ I don’t really like thinking about, you know, “what if.” I’m just kind of going to try to do my job to the best of my ability and if it happens on Sunday, great. But if not, you know, I’ve given it my all and it kind of is what it is.”