Like so many Aussie golf fans, I woke early on Monday morning with anticipation dripping from my fingertips as I reached for the TV remote. It had been only nine years since we finally saw an Australian win the Masters and it felt like that thrilling moment was about to be reprised by another Queenslander.
When Cameron Smith birdied the first two holes to quickly trim his three-stroke deficit to one and was in superior position on the third hole, it really looked like it was about to happen. But then Scottie Scheffler turned all Larry Mize on us, and poor Cam couldn’t rebound as the battle between the two best male golfers so far in 2022 went the way of the languid Texan.
In the aftermath, Smith – predictably – earned plenty more fans with his grace and humility as well as his insistence that he would have his chance again in the future. Naturally, we all nodded and agreed with him as a means to channel our disappointment towards something closer to hope.
However, in recent years I have begun to think more and more about how little is guaranteed in golf. We look at can’t-miss studs like Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka and their torrid runs at the Majors and assume it will last forever. Yet both appears stalled at four apiece. Likewise with Jordan Spieth, who looked like he could putt over broccoli and into a thimble from 2013 to 2017 and never miss but is now searching again.
A step down are the likes of Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney, who won with regularity on the PGA Tour for years but are now clinging on to meagre playing privileges.
Closer to home, we recall how Greg Norman was all but promised a green jacket based on his early performances and ability to dismantle Augusta National on occasion. Yet it never materialised. Ditto Jason Day, who nearly won the Masters at his first attempt in 2011 and again two years later but now can’t even make the field.
You just don’t know what is around the corner in this game, and while Smith is absolutely a horse for the course and marries that ideal combination of skill, grit and comfort with the golf course and the setting, we sadly can’t sit back and assume a green jacket is coming his way. This sport doesn’t work that way.
Of course, we are permitted to still have hope – and I hope I look back on this column next April with a great deal of egg on my face. I’d enjoy that a lot.