Cameron Smith- photo courtesy of Getty Images
Queensland’s Cameron Smith is preparing to defend his only individual PGA Tour title at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu this week, the Sony Open, and his most recent form suggests that a repeat of his victory in a playoff against Brendan Steel twelve months ago is well within his reach.
Smith was reasonable at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions although a third round of 66 gave an indication that his game is not too far from where it needs to be to contend this week.
Smith’s form late in 2020 was outstanding with a 4th place finish at the Zozo Championship followed up by his marvellous runner-up finish behind Dustin Johnson at the Masters.
“It seems like so long ago now, really,” said Smith when asked to recall memories from his victory last year. “I mean it was just a great week. I came directly from Australia. Didn’t have much time off because of the Presidents Cup and those events down there in Australia and was coming off some pretty good form and felt good about my game. Didn’t get off to the best start but kind of stuck in there.
“I’m looking forward to Thursday. I feel as though I’ve come off a pretty solid week last week. Felt as though I played better than what my score resulted in. So looking forward to the week. I love the place. I love the golf course. So yeah, hopefully give it a good defend.”
“It (the Waialae Country Club) just reminds me so much of home to be honest. The grasses are almost the same. You know, very — where I grew up is very flat and you know just kind of like this golf course, you kind of have to — it’s windy.
“It’s always windy. You always have to control your ball into the greens, which I love doing. I feel as though you can be very creative around the greens here. Yeah, I love it. Great golf course.”
Smith will be joined by fellow Australians, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Aaron Baddeley, Cameron Davis, Rhein Gibson and Matt Jones.
Scott has not played the event a lot but has been runner-up on one occasion, that coming in 2009 behind Zach Johnson. Scott finished as the leading Australian last week on Maui when he finished 22nd.
Marc Leishman’s effort last week to finish 25th was an improved performance on his late 2020 form and he has enjoyed several top tens in this particular event.
Of the other Australians, Aaron Baddeley finished runner-up after a playoff to Ernie Els in one of his very first PGA Tour events some 18 years ago in what was his rookie season on the PGA Tour and the ever-improving Cameron Davis recorded a very good 9th place finish here last year.
The tournament favourites are expected to be last week’s 3rd placed golfer, Collin Morikawa, who finished 21st on debut here last year but has since won the PGA Championship and Webb Simpson, who has played this event very well in recent years including when 3rd last year.
Simpson has been in very consistent form in recent months and there is a lot to like about his chances this week.
One from just outside the leading choices might well be Sungjae Im who shared the runner-up place with Cameron Smith at The Masters and who finished 5th last week.
Im was well placed after 54 holes in this event last year before a final round of 71 saw him finish 21st following another good showing in 2019 but he is now one of the better and more consistent players on the PGA Tour and his chances this week appear good.