CAMERON Smith isn’t thinking too far ahead on his first trip to Augusta National. He’s not obsessed with donning the green jacket, or securing a champion’s invite to The Masters for the rest of his professional career.
No, all this 22-year-old rising US PGA Tour star can think about is re-enacting Tiger Woods’ famous chip-in on the 16th during the 2005 Masters. For Smith will make a beeline for that iconic par 3 during practice rounds, drop a few golf balls and try to replicate Tiger’s most memorable shot.
“I would have been 12 watching Tiger’s chip-in that year,” recalls Smith. “Adam Scott winning (in 2013) is obviously a big one, but one of my favourite Masters moments is Tiger off the green on 16. It was amazing.
“I think I’ll drop a few balls and try it myself during a practice round. Why wouldn’t you?”
It’s certainly a moment every golf fan can recall vividly – Woods pitching his ball up the bank and letting it roll back down the slope, the Nike ball pausing on the lip for what seemed an eternity and finally falling to the bottom of the cup, all but burying challenger Chris DiMarco.
But the Queenslander will soak up Augusta’s history as much as he’ll try to recreate it, with an entourage travelling to Georgia to witness the Wantima Country Club product’s first Masters.
After all, this occasion only happens once.
“I absolutely can’t wait. I’ve never been (to Augusta) and everyone keeps saying it’s better than anything you could imagine,” says Smith. “I’ve never been one to watch too much golf on TV, but The Masters has always been one of the events I do sit down for. My family and friends are ecstatic for me; I’m sure it will be pretty special for dad, given he was the one who got me into golf. Some friends are coming over, as well as my coach, Grant (Field) so it’s going to be great.”
The Masters will be particularly memorable for his father, Des, who Smith confirmed will be on his bag during the popular Par-3 Tournament on the Wednesday.
But come tournament Thursday, cool-headed Smith will draw on his knack for delivering on milestone debuts – he finished in the top five in his first ever US PGA Tour event in 2014, while his stellar Major championship introduction last year is the very reason Smith is able to tee it up at Augusta this month.
The 2015 US Open was Smith’s first foray into the Majors, when the then 21-year-old shared fourth place with compatriot Adam Scott and South African Branden Grace, courtesy of a world-class 3-wood into the par-5 72nd at Chambers Bay. The 260-metre gem finished a foot from the flag, and Smith tapped in for eagle. The top-four finish secured his 2016 Masters ticket.
“I played really well that (US Open) week,” recalls Smith. “To still be getting rewarded for it a year later is unreal. Hopefully I can hit another shot like that – the more I hit, the better chance I have of being high up the leaderboard.”
With only TV coverage to go from thus far, Smith believes his short-game will be key to getting into contention at The Masters.
“From watching on TV, I at least know you’ve got to have a really good short-game and putt incredibly well. Scrambling and getting used to Augusta’s quick greens will be key.”
And should this US PGA Tour card holder feature high on Augusta’s leaderboard, perhaps he’ll overshadow the other Cameron Smith – of NRL and Test rugby league fame – even if it’s only for a week.
“I doubt it,” laughs Smith, a staunch Brisbane Broncos supporter and big fan of the Queensland Maroons stalwart. “He’s my idol. Even if I win the green jacket, he’d still be more famous.”
Born: Brisbane, QLD
Official World Golf Ranking: 95
Results in Majors (2015): T4 US Open; T25 US PGA Championship
2016 Masters Invite: Courtesy of finishing top-four at the 2015 US Open
Smith is hoping to re-enact Tiger Woods’ heroic chip-in at the par-3 16th at Augusta National.