Fresh off an outstanding 2023, Travis Smyth is kicking off the new year with high expectations at this week’s Vic Open where he arrives as the highest-ranked player in the men’s field.
Although a win proved to be elusive, the New South Welshman had four top-three finishes on the Asian Tour, as part of a haul of six top-10s overall, to climb to a career-high of No.242 on the Official World Golf Ranking by the end of last year.
His 2023 campaign also included an appearance in his first major, the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, where he produced one of the shots of the tournament – a hole-in-one on the much talked-about par-3 17th hole.
“It was definitely a career-best year,” Smyth said after a practice round at 13th Beach Golf Links today ahead of his first tournament for 2024.
“From start to finish, last year was the most consistent I’ve been by far. I didn’t miss a cut in 2023 and I don’t ever want to miss a cut again, although I’m sure I’m going to miss a cut some day.
“I guess this year comes with a lot of high expectation. The game feels good. I’m working on some things and it feels pretty nice. I’m more motivated than ever so it’s an exciting period of my career.”
In the past two years, Smyth has really started to make moves in the professional game. In 2021, he was outside the top 700 in the world and now he has arrived on the Bellarine Peninsula as the highest-ranked player in a Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia tournament for the first time and a joint favourite in the betting markets.
“I guess you never really know when the peak period of your career is,” he said. “You always strive for more. Hopefully I can become one of the world’s best golfers. I don’t know when I’m going to get there, but I’m going to do as much as I can to try and get there.”
The 29-year-old has had mixed results at this week’s venue – which includes both the Beach and Creek courses – with a best finish of a tie for third coming in 2020 when he finished at 14-under par, four shots behind the winner, Min Woo Lee. He didn’t play in last year’s event and missed the cut by two shots in 2022.
“That year (2020) was my best result here by far. I hadn’t had much success around here before then, but it brings back good memories. I can remember the final round like it was yesterday – my shots plus some of Min Woo’s shots. It was a fun afternoon.
“To win around here requires such good golf. If you can win around here, you can probably play around most places on any tour. This golf course is a pretty strong test, especially when the wind blows. You’ve got to golf your ball pretty well.”
Smyth’s one win on the PGA Tour of Australasia came in 2017 by an impressive six shots at the NT PGA Championship.
The Vic Open will be one of two appearances he will make on his home tour with the NZ Open presented by Sky Sports to follow in Queenstown later in February.
“I haven’t played that event for a number of years now. It’s going to be awesome to be back there and I’m playing with a good friend who’s going to be my amateur partner,” he said.
“It will then be Asian Tour all the way this year before most likely I go to a Q-School. I want to be playing on the best tours so I need to try to break away from Asia and go to a Q-School somewhere to take my game up a level.”
Also a high priority for Smyth in the coming weeks is the Malaysian Open (February 15-18) which offers three automatic qualifying positions for this year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Entry to the Vic Open is free on all four days.
The only place to watch every upcoming event on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia live is on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo.