Cameron Smith has set his sights on winning an Australian Open title after a majors season that yielded two hot results but no second victory.
The 2022 Open champion at St Andrews demonstrated his world-class ability – and a more well-rounded game – on the majors stage in 2023, highlighted by two top 10s at majors that historically were not his forte. At the PGA Championship, Smith earned a career-first top 10 in the form of a tie for ninth at Oak Hill in New York in May. At the US Open at LA Country Club in June, Smith bagged a career-best fourth.
But at the Masters at Augusta, and his title defence at the Open at Royal Liverpool – majors Smith typically relishes – the 30-year-old couldn’t produce his best. Augusta was drenched by rain, cold temperatures and weather delays, and Smith finished T34. At the Open, which had similarly brutal weather, Smith was tied 33rd.
In the past, Smith had lit up the scoreboard Augusta National – including results of T5, T2, T10 and T3 between 2018 and 2022. In 2020, when he tied second to Dustin Johnson, Smith became the first ever golfer to shoot all four rounds in the 60s during the Masters. But this year, he couldn’t get it going.
“Without trying to sound like [I’m complaining], I got the rough side of the draw in a few of them particularly Augusta,” he said of the weather. “I think I played 30 [of my holes] in the rain on Friday and Saturday.”
Smith was in fine form over the northern hemisphere summer, winning LIV events in England and New Jersey in addition to the solo fourth at the US Open.
“I played really good through middle of the year,” he said. “Played well in LA, and felt like I could have won there but [a third-round, one-over 71] messed me up. [My play at the majors] was [overall] solid but I just didn’t get a win. It would’ve been nice to get one, but there are always a ton of good players in those tournaments and you have to be A-plus just to be in [contention].”
The former world No.2 also dropped out of the top 10 golfers on the rankings for the first time since winning the elite Players Championship in March, 2022 – one of his six PGA Tour victories before leaving to join LIV Golf in September 2022. LIV Golf’s 48-player, no-cut tournaments do not award world ranking points despite a stellar field including Smith, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and others.
Smith leads the individual points standings on LIV Golf and could win its $US18 million bonus prize should he hold on. After the final three events of the LIV season, held between September and October, the mullet-wearing Brisbane native will turn his attention to his homeland.
Smith is eyeing a fourth Australian PGA Championship title in November and a maiden Australian Open victory. The Australian Open’s Stonehaven Cup is now top of his priorities in terms of trophies after close calls at the national championship. Smith lost to Jordan Spieth in a playoff at Royal Sydney in 2016, finishing T2, before a solo fourth in 2017. In 2018, at The Lakes in Sydney, Smith was T10.
“I‘ve been fortunate to have a few PGAs, haven’t quite got the [Australian] Open yet so that’s something that I want and I’ll be working hard to get it done,” Smith said. “It’s probably number one for things I want to win. I’ve been close and I feel like it’s been right there for me a bunch of times and I haven’t really taken advantage of it.”
The Australian Open (November 30-December 3) will again stage a mixed event with the women’s draw and Australian All Abilities Championship. In 2023, the Australian Open will again be held across two courses – this time by The Lakes and The Australian Golf Club co-hosting for the first two days. The Australian will exclusively host the weekend rounds.
“It’s at a couple of really good golf courses this year – The Australian in particularly I feel really comfortable around that place,” Smith said. “I’ve also played well around The Lakes but The Australian for me is somewhere where I think I can go out there and make a ton of birdies and hopefully win convincingly, it would be nice.”