The reigning Australian Open champion has enjoyed a year to remember.


A lot can happen in a year. Cameron Davis learned that not long after discovering a lot could also happen in one day.

For Davis, a softly spoken golf prodigy from the suburb of Frenchs Forest in Sydney’s north, his life changed forever on November 26, 2017. The then 22-year-old fired a seven-under par 64 to win the Australian Open, leaving established US PGA Tour stars Matt Jones, Jonas Blixt, Cameron Smith and former world No.1 Jason Day in his wake.

He started the final day at The Australian Golf Club six shots behind overnight leader Day, but notched six birdies and a spectacular hole-out eagle to steal the Stonehaven Cup from underneath crowd favourite Day, who was playing his first Australian event in four years. Everything Davis knew about himself, and tournament golf, was shattered in a special way.

“I always thought you needed to play out of your skin to win a professional golf tournament,” Davis tells Australian Golf Digest. “But you don’t. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to do anything special to win a golf tournament. You obviously need to play very well, but I learned that while you do need to make birdies, it is mistakes that will hurt you when playing against experienced tour players.”

The Australian Open has a history of propelling its champions to lofty heights the next year. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are among the superstars to have lifted the Stonehaven and then won multiple Majors only months later. Although in a different stratosphere of golf to those two, Davis’ journey has not been so different. During the past 12 months, he’s soared 1,396 spots up the world ranking and now sits inside the top 100. He has a US PGA Tour card and a Web .com Tour victory under his belt, not to mention a plethora of life experiences picked up traversing golf tours around the world.

“It’s been a very cool ride,” Davis laughs. “It’s just happened so quickly.”

A nice finish

Davis truly saved his best for last in what was a breakout 2017 campaign.

Those outside hard-core golf fandom wouldn’t have noticed how much the tall, athletic youngster had struggled on the Canadian Tour prior to the Australian summer. It robbed the 2015 Australian Amateur champion of self-belief, which had been building nicely since turning pro in late 2016.

On his US PGA Tour debut in November 2016, Davis tied for 15th at the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico, where he banked a cheque for $US98,467. However, his rookie season on the PGA Tour’s third-tier Canada circuit certainly brought him back to earth – making the cut just five times from 11 tournaments and registering only two top-25 results.

Davis’ prizemoney total of just $C7,253 left him in 76th place on the tour’s moneylist and he lost his card. Understandably, when Davis arrived at The Australian last November, his on-course confidence was at an all-time low. It was why, on the Sunday, Davis fought back tears and admitted his Open victory was “a dream come true”, while having his name etched on the famous trophy alongside Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman.

“It was very important to get that win early on in my career, especially after such a rough start to my career in Canada,” Davis says. “I thought, with all the systems I had in place in my game, I was going to do OK in Canada. I had played against a lot of those guys in amateur tournaments and thought I could cruise on in.

“It was a pretty big blow to my confidence to have a terrible season. But to find a way to win a tournament, my national championship no less, was a big kick. It turned a pretty poor year into a pretty good year.”

Stepping Stonehaven

The week prior to the Australian Open, Davis had missed the cut at the New South Wales Open and his world ranking dropped to 1,494th. However, after hoisting the Stonehaven, Davis rocketed 1,265 places to world No.229 – not to mention pocketing a winner’s cheque for $225,000. It was a sign of things to come.

“The Australian Open win gave me enough of a confidence boost to say, ‘OK, I’ve had a rough year playing in Canada and I didn’t do very well, but I can still compete.’ I knew it was in there: the confidence to know that if I do play my best golf, I can be right up there in on any leaderboard.”

Davis couldn’t have timed his first professional win any better with his rookie season on the PGA Tour’s secondary Web .com Tour only months away. With only limited status on the cut-throat, birdie-fest that is the secondary circuit, Davis managed to win the Nashville Open in May – assuring himself of a start in the finals series in September. There, he finished third in the finals opener in Ohio to guarantee his dream promotion to the PGA Tour. But for good measure, he also finished third at the finale, the Tour Championship.

Davis says he constantly drew upon the lessons he learned from his Australian Open conquest.

“Throughout my Web .com season, I felt I was able to let good rounds and scores happen because the Aussie Open win taught me to be patient, limit your mistakes and hang in there and something good will eventually happen,” Davis says. “In that sense, winning gives you a better chance of winning.”

Davis is now part of the 2018-’19 Tour graduate reshuffle on the PGA Tour, who jostle for position on a ‘leaderboard’ of 50 players that are re-ranked five times throughout the season. Their position on the reshuffle list determines how many PGA Tour starts they receive. Essentially, it is an extension of the Web .com Tour finals, as they are still playing for a rolling PGA Tour card.

“It’s pretty cool to know my game is good enough to be on the PGA Tour; it’s where I’ve always wanted to be,” Davis says. “As exciting as that is, it’s also time to knuckle down and start improving because it doesn’t get any easier from here. It’s going to be tougher; I’m playing against the very best players in the world.”

Return of the champ

In September, Davis revealed his intention to defend his Australian Open crown at The Lakes. His good news came during a week when the tournament was taking a hit as drawcards Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman declined to tee it up.

Davis, too, could have been forgiven for staying in the US and focusing on his rookie season. But he didn’t think twice about giving up one of five early PGA Tour starts to chase his dream of defending his national championship. Not even the RSM Classic in Georgia – the last PGA Tour event before the first graduate re-ranking of the season – could stand in his way.

“For me, I don’t feel it was too tough a decision,” Davis says. “Yes, any PGA Tour event is important, but I definitely feel it’s worth coming home and playing in front of friends and family.

“I’ve always said to myself, if I have the opportunity to play in those big (Australian) events I wouldn’t pass them up. It’s my national open, it’s a big deal and I’m defending champion and it’s pretty exciting to see if I can back it up. I want to make that more of a thing, playing in Australia. I want to be able to do that every year I can.”

The gifted ball-striker is eager to test himself on the stern tee-to-green examination that is The Lakes.

“I think it’s going to be a very different experience than coming into the tournament last year,” Davis says. “I don’t really know what to expect; it’s the first time I’ve ever defended a tournament.

“It’s going to be awesome. I get to stay in my own bed and try to defend on a course I grew up playing many times. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve been to The Lakes, I think a lot of the holes will still be fresh in my mind.”

Davis is aiming to be the first back-to-back Australian Open winner since Peter Lonard captured the 2003 and 2004 titles. The closest any player has come since then was Spieth, who won the 2014 and 2016 editions. Although world No.98 Davis won’t let himself think that far ahead. For now, he’s happy to reflect on the past 12 months and use that as inspiration for his burgeoning career.

“It’s amazing to say I’m now a golfer on the PGA Tour,” Davis says. “It didn’t happen the way I ever thought it would happen, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. It’s been very cool and I’m really excited for what’s to come.”