Former US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy has urged Australian sports fans to sit up and take notice of rising star Cameron Smith, believing the Queenslander is on the verge of becoming a top-10 player in the world.
Smith will defend his Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort from Thursday having flown the flag for Australian golf at both the Emirates Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney and then as half of Team Australia at the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf in Melbourne.
Although he still looks like he should be spending the week on the Gold Coast at schoolies, the 25-year-old now occupies a lofty position in world golf, a position Ogilvy believes will only improve further in the years to come.
Smith’s ranking of 33rd in the world puts him behind only Jason Day (11th) and Marc Leishman (21st) as Australia’s leading male golfer and Ogilvy is adamant that he has all the tools necessary to continue his rapid ascension.
“Australians need to watch Cam Smith,” said Ogilvy, who is this week making his first appearance at Royal Pines.
“He’s really good. He’s got the respect of the whole locker room in the US, and that’s hard to get.
“To this point, every single time you see him play he’s a little bit better than the last time. You can’t say that about many guys.
“To this point, every single time you see him play he’s a little bit better than the last time. You can’t say that about many guys.” – Geoff Ogilvy
“He’s improving at a nice rate. He’s easily one of the top 40, 50 guys, one that people notice and top 40 or 50, that’s really, really good. He could be a year way from being a top-10 guy.
“Jordan Spieth doesn’t do anything better than Cam Smith, except he holes more putts at the right time and gets up and down at the right time, and that’s not something you go to the range and practise. That’s just experience of playing, and some are quicker at learning that. Jordan learned it really young, and Cam is getting there, and physically he seems like he really knows what he’s doing with his golf swing.”
Few know Smith’s game better than World Cup teammate Marc Leishman and, like Ogilvy, says people in high places are taking notice of his development.
“When Cam is up on the leaderboard, you take notice,” said Leishman, who is desperate to break his duck in Australia’s major tournaments in his final event of the year. “He’s won tournaments before and someone who putts as well as he does you have to take notice of.
“I know everyone takes notice of him, particularly Ernie Els has taken a lot of notice of him, being captain of the Presidents Cup team. He’s improving a lot, he’s already a really great player and he’s only going to get better.”
It’s high praise that the unassuming Smith seems unsure of how to process – “Thanks Geoff” – and doesn’t influence the goals he has set for himself.
“My next goal for myself is to make myself a top-20 player in the world,” said Smith, who was tied for fifth in his second Masters appearance this year.
“I’ve made myself a top-50 player in the world, which was the goal for the past couple years. I don’t know, it seems like everything’s just happening so quickly. I’m not sure when it’s going to happen. Obviously getting that far up is a really big step and something that I want to do, but definitely not a timeframe thing.
“I’m just trying to make myself better every day. If it happens, it happens.”
Lauded for his short game wizardry that was on full display last week at Metropolitan Golf Club, Ogilvy believes it is in fact Smith’s unflappable demeanour that will elevate him to be one of the best players on the planet.
“Being unflappable is very difficult. You either are or you’re not, right?” Ogilvy reasoned.
“Naturally we are either the guy who yells at the car that brakes in front of us, or we’re like, Oh, he slowed down. If you’re the guy who flips you’re just the guy who flips. Golf is a game that will flip you out. So it’s impressive.
“For someone like me, who it’s always driven me nuts. For Cam, he can get mad, but he just gets short-term mad, and then it’s over. That’s impressive, and then that’s one of the attributes that will keep him there a long time, because he doesn’t seem to be riding the emotional rollercoaster, like a lot of us.
“You’re either that way or you’re not, and he seems mentally really sound.”