Cameron Smith – courtesy of Getty Images
Cameron Smith’s wire to wire victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on the island of Maui in Hawaii today has seen the 22-year-old move into the top ten (10th) in the world ranking and achieve one of his 2022 goals almost before the year had started.
Smith’s narrow but very impressive one-shot victory over the world number one, Jon Rahm, has seen him move from 21st at the start of the week to his highest ever ranking and he was delighted to achieved such a milestone so early in the year.
“Yeah, you know, it took me awhile to get into the top 20, and I actually didn’t know that, so that’s really cool,” said Smith. That was one of my goals this year – to get into the top 10.
“Yeah, I don’t really know what to say. That’s, it’s nice that that’s done and dusted. Hopefully, I can keep cruising up those world rankings.”
The win continues a remarkable run of consistency in recent months having finished inside the top twenty in eight of his last nine PGA Tour starts.
Smith led this week’s event, restricted to PGA Tour event winners in 2021 from his opening round of 65 to lead by one, then by three after his second round of 64 and although caught by Rahm’s round of 61 in yesterday’s third round, he took charge again early in round four.
The day developed into a battle between the two, although Smith’s countryman, Matt Jones, made a stirring attempt to chase down those ahead of him when he produced a final round of 61 to eventually finish 3rd, two behind Smith and one behind Rahm.
“I just played really solid the whole week,” added Smith. Obviously being a leader is not easy. Restless sleeps. I feel like I spent a lot of time looking at the ceiling in bed this week.
“But, no, it was really cool. I haven’t done that before. It was nice to kind of see where my game’s at against some of the best players in the world. I’ve been working hard and it’s paid off early in the season.
“I think just stringing four really good days together. I think that’s always kind of something I’ve, not struggled with, but I’ve always kind of wanted to do that, and I’ve always had kind of a scratchy day in there. So four really, really solid days of golf.”
Smith was asked the importance of keeping the personality he has developed as a genuine Australian bloke and added:
“Yeah, I feel like there’s no real reason to change my personality. I think my dad would whip me, to be honest, if I did (laughing).
“I don’t know. It’s just how I’ve been brought up. I’ve been brought up to be the kind of the modest guy that respects everyone.
“And like even today out there, Jon was great as well. Every time we made a putt or a birdie it was, Good shot, mate, or there was never any I guess hatred towards each other just because we were competing. It was, we wanted to win because we wanted to compete against the best.
“Yeah, so I think that’s just kind of how I’ve been brought up and I respect other guys’ good play as well.”
Smith began the year with the aim of making it to the Tour Championship and making it to the top ten in the world. Just one week in he has already achieved one and looks very likely to make the other with a few new goals no doubt on the radar given the confidence that such a win and the manner of it will bring.
“I think one of the big goals for most of the guys out here is just to make it to Atlanta to the TOUR Championship. If you make it to Atlanta you’ve done something really good for a long period of time. So, yeah, that one’s still a goal.
“Like I said before, being in the top 10 was another one. It’s good to tick that off so early in the year. But I guess I’ll have to reassess on a few other ones.”
Smith recorded the best under par 72-hole score on the PGA Tour but while the scoring was stunning it did involve lift clean and place earlier in the week. He did, though, knock off the previous record set on this golf course by one of his heroes Ernie Els.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Obviously Ernie was one of my idols growing up. I mean, I don’t really have many things to brag about to Ernie, to be honest. He’s got a lot of stuff over me. But, yeah, to take this one off him is pretty cool.
Jones benefitted from having his Sydney coach Gary Barter in Hawaii this week. “It’s very important. I mean, it’s been since, it will be two years in March since THE PLAYERS since I’ve seen him. We’ve done a lot of FaceTime, a lot of work over the phone, but there’s nothing like hands on.”
The PGA Tour now moves to Honolulu where Smith will attempt to win the event he won two years ago when successful at the Sony Open.