Cameron Smith will need to pull a rabbit out of the hat if he wants to take down the hottest player on the planet. He’ll need to throw everything he has at world No.1 Scottie Scheffler – and at Augusta National. He’ll need to think outside the box if he wants to get inside the green jacket.
One thing he hasn’t thought about – but is actually a cracking idea – is cutting off the mullet and showing up to the first tee on Sunday bearing no resemblance to the world No.6 from Australia who sports a long mullet and who has claimed two PGA Tour victories already this year. Confusion may be the only thing that can stop Scheffler winning golf tournaments.
A brilliant Sports Illustrated reporter asked Smith if he thought about taking the scissors to his mullet for that reason.
“No, definitely not,” Smith said through laughter, after shooting 68 for the best round of the day by two shots.
Smith sits at six-under-par after three rounds and will be in the final group with Scheffler, whose steady 71 lifted him to nine under. Sungjae Im (71) is at four under while 2019 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel are at two under.
Scheffler – who handled an unplayable lie in the trees on the 18th to salvage a bogey and a three-shot lead – has won three PGA Tour events in the past six weeks and is aiming to make it four.
Impressive run, for sure. But it’ll take a bit more than that to intimidate Smith. Smith’s New Zealander caddie, Sam Pinfold, has been on the bag for all five of Smith’s PGA Tour wins – from the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans to the elite Players Championship last month – and is yet to see him back down.
“He loves it; he loves a dogfight. He loves a battle and he’s very confident and very positive,” Pinfold told Australian Golf Digest. Pinfold hails from Paraparaumu GC in Wellington, the same NZ golf club which produced legendary bagman Steve Williams. Williams caddied for Tiger Woods and for Australia’s Adam Scott (he read the winning putt) when Scott triumphed in a playoff at the 2013 Masters.
“Cam’s game is in a great place, but he still has 18 holes to go,” adds Pinfold. “He still has a long way. We will have a good time out there and we will stay patient and we will stick to a plan.”
The reason why Pinfold says Smith is confident and positive is because he’s found himself in a similar situation this year and at the Masters.
In January, he played in the final group with then world No.1 Jon Rahm, the reigning US Open champion, at the Tournament of Champions. Smith took the Spaniard down and won the title. At TPC Sawgrass last month, he took on 143 of the world’s best golfers and won what is considered golf’s unofficial fifth Major.
“It should be a great fight tomorrow,” Scheffler said of the final pairing with Smith. “Cam is a tremendous player, and he’s got a fantastic short game, and he’s coming off a huge win at the Players Championship. Both of us are in good form, so I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
Smith will be thinking about his form and two wins on Sunday at Augusta National as he chases Scheffler – and a maiden Major title.
“It just means I can get it done when I’m up against the best guys in the world,” Smith said. “It’s a good feeling to have. It’s earned. It’s not given to you.”
The 28-year-old from Brisbane will also take comfort in the fact he has played well on Sundays at the Masters. Smith shared 10th place at Augusta last year, tied second behind Dustin Johnson in 2020 and tied fifth in 2018. In 2020, he became the only player in Masters history to shoot four rounds in the 60s.
“I’m going to have to go out there tomorrow and play really good golf again, similar to today,” Smith said. “Hopefully everything falls into place. I can’t control what anyone else is going to do; I have to go out there and really focus on myself.”
Smith will focus on himself, and so will an entire nation of sports fans in his homeland of Australia on Monday morning. Smith was one of those fans when his countryman Adam Scott became the first Australian to win at Augusta in 2013, the same year Smith turned professional.
“It’s pretty cool,” Smith said when asked about Australians tuning into the Masters coverage to watch him on Monday morning AEST. Smith is off at 4.40am AEST. “I’ve been watching this tournament since I can remember. Hopefully everyone gets up early and I can make some birdies.”
There’ll be plenty watching in Pinfold’s native New Zealand, too. They will be hoping that history can repeat itself. That an Australian golfer can do something out of this world on Sunday at the Masters with a Kiwi caddie on the bag.