Smith eyes golf redemption and Australian Open glory

Darren Walton |

Cameron Smith is refusing to look back as he bids to rebound from the worst week of his illustrious career with a watershed Australian Open triumph in Sydney.

Reduced to tears after missing the halfway cut at the Australian PGA Championship, a cherished event he’s won three times, Smith believes he’s ironed out sufficient swing chinks to earn a shot at contending for Open glory.

“I wouldn’t say my confidence is at 100 per cent but there’s no reason I can’t go out there and be competitive,” Australia’s 2022 British Open champ said after Wednesday’s pro-am at The Australian Golf Club.

“It only takes a few good shots and a few good feels and all of a sudden you’re looking at yourself at the top of the leaderboard.”

Cameron Smith during the second round of the Aussie PGA Championship.
Cameron Smith endured a torrid time at the Australian PGA Championship, at which he missed the cut. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

The former world No.2 was anything but upbeat last Friday after carding a six-over-par shocker at Royal Queensland.

“It’s easy to lose confidence with rounds like that,” he said. 

“But I’ve been playing pretty good golf the last seven or eight months and it’s easy to look at it as just another round.

“It hurts the confidence a little bit. I’ve just got to get back to what I know and what I know I can do.”

Rather than fleeing the PGA Championship scene, Smith spent the weekend working tirelessly with his trusty coach Grant Field.

While he’s optimistic of turning around his fortunes in Thursday’s first round at the co-hosting Lakes layout, Smith – who won two LIV Golf events in 2023 – admitted his jaw-dropping flop last week showed just how fickle the sport can be.

“It’s a silly game sometimes, to be honest,” he said.

“A couple of weeks ago I was competing to win the Hong Kong Open and I thought I was playing pretty decent golf. A couple of weeks later it was at the other end of the spectrum.

“It’s pretty weird how it can change that quickly. Just as you think you’ve got it, you don’t; and then sometimes when you think you don’t have it, you’re finishing in the top five or top 10.

“It’s a crazy game.”

Despite slipping to 20th in the world while unable to accrue points through the Saudi-backed breakaway league, Smith remains the highest-ranked player in the 156-strong field.

But there are another seven top-100 stars eyeing the Stonehaven Cup, one of the most coveted trophies in golf that has legendary names including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth etched onto it.

Polish golfer Adrian Meronk with the 2022 Australian Open trophy.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk is back to defend the Australian Open title he won in 2022. (Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS)

Poland’s Adrian Meronk, who mowed down Adam Scott in last year’s final round to deny his “childhood idol” and former world No.1 a second Open crown, is among the challengers looking to thwart Smith and pre-tournament favourite Min Woo Lee.

“It’s great to see the stage set up for everyone and see how everyone plays,” Meronk said.

“I can see more and more players arriving from Europe this year as well to compete. It’s a good thing.”

But Smith seems especially desperate to win.

“Growing up as a kid, you want to win your national open. It means everything,” he said.

“I was fortunate enough to watch a couple of Aussie Opens down here as a teenager and play in a bunch as well, so it always created a really good opportunity for me to learn as a young professional.

“It’s on the radar.”

Smith and Lee will play the first two rounds together in the marquee pairing, starting on Thursday morning at The Lakes.