You would be forgiven for thinking that Cameron Smith’s most notable accomplishment in the PGA Tour season just past was growing his hair.

The distinctive ‘mullet’ that became a calling card in the wake of his breakthrough individual PGA Tour win at the 2020 Sony Open was prominent in majors and at the Tokyo Olympics, drawing attention in a sport not known for its follicle follies.

Yet as the mullet flowed at the back Smith was all business up front, entering the Tour Championship with genuine hope of becoming Australia’s first FedEx Cup champion.

It was 12 months ago at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek – The Summit Club in Las Vegas the venue for this week’s edition – that Smith emerged from something of a post-COVID slump with a tie for 11th, his best finish in the nine months following his Sony Open title.

A week later he was tied for fourth at the Zozo Championship and a fortnight after that finished runner-up at The Masters.

In 22 starts spanning the past 12 months Smith has recorded five top-fives, three top-10s and four top-20 finishes to rise to a career high of 23rd in the Official World Golf Ranking… yet the mullet still dominates the discussion.

“That was definitely a talking point for a long time,” Smith concedes of his locks.

“I wouldn’t like my hair to be the talking point, I’d rather people talk about my golf game.

“But it was nice to have a really solid season on top of all that other stuff.”

Since finishing tied for 17th at the Tour Championship Smith has spent five weeks hanging out with his father Des, turning attention to a misbehaving driver in the past two weeks in preparation for the start of his 2021-2022 campaign.

He and close mate Marc Leishman both had their fathers on course for a practice round on Tuesday as the 28-year-old gets back to business.

“I was getting a little bit worn out there towards the end of the season, just a little bit tired,” adds Smith, who has two top-five finishes in the CJ Cup.

“But definitely feeling excited to be back on the golf course again. Through that last period of the season, it can get pretty overwhelming. I just want to be back out here which is a nice feeling to have because probably towards the end of the season that wasn’t the case.

“I’m doing my prep as you usually would, there’s no laziness involved. I’m obviously here to try and compete and hopefully at the end of the week have a trophy.”

Joining Smith at The Summit Club are fellow Aussies Leishman, Matt Jones, Cam Davis, Adam Scott and Jason Day, who received a sponsor’s invitation to take his place in the field.

Just three Aussies – Jason Scrivener, Min Woo Lee and Scott Hend – are teeing it up on the European Tour in Spain at the Estrella Damm NA Andalucía Masters and the Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Team Series arrives in New York, Gabi Ruffels joining Stephanie Kyriacou (pictured) and Whitney Hillier in the unique format.

Ruffels will captain a team featuring Beth Allen and South Africa’s Lejan Lewthwaite, Kyriacou’s team boasts Gabriella Cowley and Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso while Hillier is part of the team led by Solheim Cup hero Emily Kristine Pedersen.

Round 1 tee-times AEDT

PGA Tour
The CJ Cup
The Summit Club, Las Vegas, Nevada
1.56am Cameron Smith, Harris English, Paul Casey
2.20am Marc Leishman, Stewart Cink, Shane Lowry
2.32am Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Sebastián Muñoz
4.37am Jason Day, Joaquin Niemann, Charley Hoffman
5.06am Cam Davis, Kevin Kisner, Sergio Garcia
5.18am Matt Jones, Erik van Rooyen, Gary Woodland

Defending champion: Jason Kokrak
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Marc Leishman
TV schedule: Live 8am-11am Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday on Fox Sports 503

European Tour
Estrella Damm NA Andalucía Masters
Real Club Valderrama, Sotogrande, Spain
7.30pm Ryan Fox, Stephen Gallacher, Peter Hanson
8.20pm*             Michael Campbell, Joël Stalter, Jack Senior
11.30pm             Jason Scrivener, Thomas Bjorn, Aaron Rai
12am    Min Woo Lee, Bernd Wiesberger, Nicolai Hojgaard
12.20am*           Scott Hend, Oliver Wilson, Søren Kjeldsen

Defending champion: John Catlin
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Min Woo Lee
TV schedule: Live 11pm-4am Thursday, Friday; Live 10.30pm-3am Saturday, Sunday on Fox Sports 503

Japan Golf Tour
Japan Open Golf Championship
Biwako Country Club, Shiga
1.37pm*             David Bransdon, Tomohiro Umeyama, Terumichi Kakazu
2.04pm*             Todd Sinnott, Yuki Ishikawa, Kaito Onishi

Defending champion: Yuki Inamori
Past Aussie winners: Craig Parry (2007), Paul Sheehan (2006)
Top Aussie prediction: David Bransdon

Ladies European Tour
Aramco Team Series – New York
Glen Oaks Club, Old Westbury, New York
10.53pm             Gabriela Ruffels, Beth Allen, Lejan Lewthwaite, Marc Topiol
11.53pm             Stephanie Kyriacou, Gabriella Cowley, Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso, James Rawson
1.42am Emily Kristine Pedersen, Whitney Hillier, Camille Chevalier, Ahmad Rashad

TV schedule: Live 4am-8am Friday, Saturday on Fox Sports 503; Live 5.30am-9.30am Sunday on Fox Sports 505; 11.30am-1.30pm Monday on Fox Sports 503

Challenge Tour
Empordà Challenge
Empordà Golf, Girona, Spain
6.50pm Dimitrios Papadatos, Victor Pastor, Pelle Edberg
7.20pm Blake Windred, Hennie Du Plessis, Ivan Cantero Gutierrez
11.50pm             Daniel Hillier, Jesper Svensson, Matti Schmid
12am    Josh Geary, Haraldur Magnus, Oliver Hundeboll

Defending champion: Inaugural event
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Blake Windred

Champions Tour
SAS Championship
Prestonwood CC, Cary, North Carolina
1.15am*             Steven Alker, David Berganio Jr
1.25am*             Stephen Leaney, Thongchai Jaidee, Tom Gillis
1.35am Robert AllenbyStuart Appleby, Steve Pate
2.05am*             David McKenzie              , Tom Byrum, Glen Day
2.35am*             John Senden, Jay Haas, Paul Stankowski
2.45am*             Rod Pampling, Colin Montgomerie, Gene Sauers                           

Defending champion: Ernie Els
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Rod Pampling
TV schedule: 11am-1pm Saturday, Sunday; Live 5.30am-8.30am Monday on Fox Sports 503

[Main Image: Getty]