Cameron Smith says his meteoric rise over the past two years has prepared him for the pressure of trying to win his maiden Major title at the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
Smith has knocked on the door at the Majors for several years now and it won’t get any easier this week given the 150th edition of golf’s oldest Major returns to its sacred home in Scotland with biblical hype.
Hundreds of thousand of fans have packed into the tiny Scottish seaside town including superstars such as recently retired tennis icon Ash Barty and former cricket ace Kevin Pietersen.
Smith leads the charge of 11 Australians vying for the Claret Jug and with four PGA Tour wins in the past 2.5 years, plus a third placing at the Masters at Augusta earlier this year, he feels readier than ever to earn a career first Major win.
“I think so; I think I’ve played the best golf of my life this year, for sure,” Smith said after a Wednesday practice round with fellow Australians Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, and even retired tennis star Ash Barty who was walking inside the ropes with the group. “I love the golf course. It would be awesome to win an Open here; I think it’s everyone’s dream growing up to win an Open at St Andrews.”
Smith’s results at the Open have not been up to his standards, with just one top-20 from four previous starts. But he now feels he has a handle on links golf and he’s coming off a tie for 10th at last week’s Scottish Open. “Links golf is trying to hit the perfect shot and hoping for the best,” he said.
“So, I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’m feeling pretty good. The game feels good and I had a good weekend up at the Scottish Open. It was good to see some putts drop and a couple of low numbers over the weekend. Hopefully I can get it done.”
Smith is hoping to become the fifth different Australian to win the Open Championship after Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Greg Norman and Ian Baker-Finch.
But if Smith gets it done, don’t expect the Queenslander to cut off his thick mullet.
“I’ve always said that if I won a tournament or did something good, I would cut it off but I’ve done that a couple times this year, and it’s still on there,” he said about his PGA Tour victories in Hawaii and at the Players Championship.
“I’d like to say I would cut it off, but it’s probably not going to happen. I feel like it’s almost a part of me now. People recognise the hair and makes a few people laugh.”
Smith was placed in a star grouping with four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka and in-form Irishman Seamus Power at 8.03am (5.03pm AEST) on Thursday.
He is joined at the Open by fellow Australians Scott, Leishman, Lucas Herbert, Min Woo Lee, Anthony Quayle, Jason Scrivener, Dimi Papadatos, Jed Morgan, Brad Kennedy and Matt Griffin.