Reunited with his coach Grant Field after more than two years apart, Cameron Smith feels tuned up and ready for his shot at a maiden Major victory in his first Open Championship at St Andrews.
With Australia’s border closures preventing Smith and long-time swing guru Field having an in-person session throughout the entire Covid-19 pandemic, the world No.6 was finally able to have his swing analysed by the man who knows it best at last week’s Scottish Open.
It worked, as Field sprinkled his magic dust and Smith finished tied for 10th at the Renaissance Club, a diet links course in North Berwick.
Smith is now champing at the bit to play his fifth Open Championship but first at the Old Course at St Andrews.
“The Open is always one of my favourites to play; the conditions are so much different to what I grew up with but I love links golf,” Smith told Australian Golf Digest on Monday at St Andrews.
“Playing links golf, you have to hit the perfect shot and just hope for the best. At times, it will get frustrating this week if you get punished for a good shot but you’ll have to deal with it and move on. It’s very similar to what the Melbourne Sandbelt presents; you have to hit lots of different shots and you have to work the ball into slopes and winds.”
Given Smith played the Scottish Open last week, the 28-year-old chose a light practice session on Monday which he spent just chipping and putting on some of the Old Course’s greens. When Smith ran into a practice round group featuring Joaquinn Niemann and Sergio Garcia, Smith stood 200 yards from one tee and asked both players to hit punch drivers through the wind somewhat over his head to capture a fun video. It was clear Smith was relishing seeing the Old Course in windy Open conditions.
In terms of Smith’s 2022 campaign at the Majors, he threatened to win the Masters in April, where he finished third, before getting himself in the mix at the PGA Championship (tied 13th) then missing the cut at the US Open. Naturally, he’s hungry to close out the Majors season with a victory at the Home of Golf.
“Yeah, as a kid on the putting green at my home course I’d dream of winning an Open at St Andrews, it would be nuts,” said Smith, whose best result at the Open was a tie for 20th in 2019.
Now a five-time PGA Tour winner including two this year, Smith has only ever visited the old links once – while an amateur to play the St Andrews Links Trophy several years ago. But he does remember watching fellow Australian Marc Leishman losing the 2015 Open at St Andrews in a playoff to Zach Johnson after driving his tee shot into a fairway divot on the first extra hole.
Leishman finished tied second with Louis Oosthuizen, while fellow Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day were also near the lead on the final day.
“2015 was a good one for Aussies to watch, I remember that vividly,” Smith recalls. “I remember ‘Leish’ getting a bad break with that fairway divot and it broke Australia’s heart to watch. St Andrews seems to treat the Aussies well [editor’s note: Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle won Opens at St Andrews] so hopefully that’s the case this week and we can give Australians something to cheer about on Sunday night or early Monday morning.”
Smith is among an 11-strong Australian contingent for the 150th Open. Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Lucas Herbert, Min Woo Lee, Anthony Quayle, Jason Scrivener, Dimi Papadatos, Jed Morgan, Brad Kennedy and Matt Griffin are all in the field.