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29 Nov 2022 | Australian Open |

Smith set for final push of career-best year

by Dane Heverin

Cameron Smith.

Cameron Smith has a fitting finale to his career-best year firmly in his sights as he strives to win a maiden ISPS HANDA Australian Open crown at Victoria and Kingston Heath golf clubs this week.

Smith has spent the early part of the week recharging his batteries after making the most of celebrating his third Fortinet Australian PGA Championship triumph - his fifth for the year - with family and friends back home in Brisbane.

Come Thursday, the 150th Open champion will be ready to go however as he is desperate to bookend his year with wins - he began 2022 by shooting the lowest score in PGA Tour history to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

“It would be a really nice way to finish off a really good year,” Smith said.

“The plan was to come down here and win both of them and I ticked one box and hopefully can do one more this week.”

Smith also has the chance to become the first person to win Australia’s two marquee men’s events in the same year since Greg Chalmers in 2011 and he wants to put on a show as he chases that feat.

Australian golf fans marvelled at Smith’s sheer brilliance, in particular with the putter, during his Sunday back nine 30 that guided him to a first major championship at St Andrews in July, and this week the 29-year-old expects to show off some of that magic again.

“I think these golf courses (Victoria and Kingston Heath) are a really good mix between links golf and almost like Augusta,” Smith, who has three top-five finishes at The Masters, said.

“You get to play plenty of shots, you have to, to play good golf around here. I feel like I play my best golf when I’m creative and I’m just happy to be down here.

“I think as a kid growing up playing the amateur stuff down here and stuff like that, you take it for granted. You go everywhere else around the world and realise that this is the best that golf has got to offer. It’s just cool to be back down here.”

Smith is also buoyed by the format of the event which has men, women and All Abilities golfers on the same course, at the same time.

The men and women are playing for equal prize money, and for Smith it will be the first time as a professional he has graced the fairways with the women in tournament play.

Earlier this year, he did play a friendly match with seven-time major champion Karrie Webb AO and was upstaged by the World Golf Hall of Famer.

“I think it will be good for the game. I think the crowds will be enormous and I just think it will be a good week,” Smith said.

“That was actually before The Open (that he played with Webb). I went down to do some practice down in South Florida. I didn’t even know Karrie was a member there and we ran into each other and yeah, she beat me.

“I don’t know what to say. Yeah, hopefully she doesn’t beat me off the stick this week. I think she had a home course advantage down there, so I’m blaming that.”

Webb was reluctant to claim full bragging rights as their round was put to a halt after 15 holes by inclement weather, but Smith did pay up.

“The bet was for a bottle of wine but he brought over a bottle of Grange. If he had told me on the first tee that we were playing for a bottle of Grange, I probably wouldn’t have played so well,” Webb said with a laugh.

“I had him sign the bottle and said ‘I’m not going to drink this until one of us wins a big tournament which will probably be you’. Then two weeks later he did.”

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