Cam Smith says he’s looking at the second half of golf’s Majors season with confidence despite a lacklustre week on the greens at the PGA Championship.
The world No.4 was not able to carry his sensational form from last month’s Masters, he finished tied third, into the PGA and struggled to a share of 13th at Oklahoma’s Southern Hills course. It is his best result at the PGA.
Smith posted a tidy 69 in the final round at the par 70 Southern Hills to finish at even par and five shots behind a playoff between 2017 PGA champion Justin Thomas and Will Zalatoris. Thomas defeated Zalatoris in the three-hole aggregate playoff to become a two-time PGA Championship winner.
Smith was ranked the best iron player in the field at Southern Hills. But he failed to capitalise on opportunities on the greens, ranking 76th with the short stick when he is usually one of the best putters in the world.
“It was a pretty solid week and it could have been very different if a few putts had gone in, especially during the last three rounds,” Smith told Australian Golf Digest. “If a few more putts had gone in, it could have been a very different tournament. I hit lots of good putts, but I didn’t make enough birdies on the weekend, I only had six, and I think I had 10 or 11 lip-outs for birdies so it just wasn’t my week.”
The silver lining was Smith felt he’d turned a corner with the driver, which has been his achilles heel for several years. The improvement was due to fine-tuning his equipment and adding almost a degree of loft and a different shaft.
It paid off as Smith ranked 15th in the field for the PGA for strokes gained off the tee. He is now excited by the prospect of an extra weapon in his arsenal for June’s US Open at Brookline and the Open Championship at St Andrews in July.
“My game feels really good and there was a lot to be positive about at the PGA,” he said. “My driver felt the best it has in years, so I’m feeling pretty good about the next couple of Major championships.”
Smith will have a week off before a stretch of three consecutive events – Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament in Ohio, the Canadian Open at St George’s GC in Toronto and the US Open.
“It should be really good stretch; I haven’t played the course in Canada so I’m looking forward to getting up there and I love the Memorial Tournament,” he said. “I haven’t seen Brookline so I’m keen to get up there and check it out for the US Open.”
Smith’s fellow Australian Lucas Herbert lipped out a birdie putt on the ninth that would have put him at four under and within three of the lead, but bogeys on 11, 12 and 14, before a double-bogey at the 16th, crippled his chances.
Herbert birdied the last two holes to sign for a 71 and at even par he joined Smith in a tie for 13th, Herbert’s first top 15 at the Majors.
Marc Leishman carded a 68 to finish at four over, while Cam Davis (70) was six over and Jason Day (73) was eight over.