29 Aug 2023 | Australian Open | Professional golf | Men's Australian Open |
Australian Open driving Smith's summer homecoming
by Tony Webeck
Cameron Smith has just one theory for satisfying the thousands of fans who will flock to see him play on home soil this summer: Win.
Smith confirmed on Tuesday that he will return to Australia in November first to defend his Fortinet Australian PGA Championship title and then seek to secure the Stonehaven Cup for the first time at the ISPS HANDA Australian Open at The Australian and The Lakes golf clubs.
The world No.11 is becoming accustomed to his status as Australian golf’s No.1 drawcard.
The first Australian winner of The Open Championship in almost 30 years made his Australian homecoming last year one of being ferried between commitments and tee times.
He was presented with the Key to the City by Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner, won the Greg Norman Medal for a second time, attempted a Guinness World Record for the largest golf lesson ever given with coach Grant Field and took the Claret Jug to countless functions and media ops.
He displayed his class on the back nine on Sunday to thrill fans with a three-stroke win and says that will be the aim again when he tees off at Royal Queensland on November 23.
“I always think that I am there to play golf as best as I can. That’s my job,” said Smith, who can join legends Noman von Nida, Kel Nagle, Billy Dunk and Robert Allenby as a four-time winner with victory this year.
“The Aussie crowds, you can have a little bit more banter with and have a little bit more fun with, for sure, but the main goal is trying to lift the trophy.”
One trophy that has eluded Smith to date is the time-honored Stonehaven Cup.Names that adorn the Australian Open trophy include Gene Sarazen, Peter Thomson, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
After the disappointment of fatigue setting in and missing the Round 3 cut last year, the 30-year-old is desperate to put himself in position to add his name to the greats to have won both The Open and the Australian Open.
“That’s probably No.1 for things that I want to win, definitely in the next four months,” said Smith, who would become the 13th player in history to win both should he triumph at The Australian from November 30-December 3.
“I’ve been close and I feel like it’s been right there for me a bunch of times and I haven’t really taken advantage of it.”
The closest Smith has come was a playoff defeat at the hands of Jordan Spieth at Royal Sydney in 2016 and he has had near misses at both of this year’s host venues.
He was fourth two shots back of shock winner Cam Davis at The Australian in 2017 and a year later finished tied for 10th at The Lakes Golf Club, performances he will draw upon when he returns to Sydney for the first time in four years.
“It’s at a couple of really good golf courses this year,” Smith said of the Australian Open’s return to Sydney.
“The Australian, particularly, I feel really comfortable around that place. I’ve also played well around The Lakes but The Australian for me is somewhere where I think I can go out there and make a ton of birdies and hopefully win convincingly, would be nice,” he added, laughing.
While winning remains his primary focus, Smith is conscious of putting on a show for the fans.
As he seeks to replicate his back-to-back Australian PGA wins in 2017 and 2018, the Queenslander has called upon tournament officials to help him bring the house down at the expanded par-3 17th party hole at Royal Queensland.
“I love the idea of a party hole where everyone can hang around,” said Smith.
“I think that hole is a good hole to have it on as well.
“They had a couple of tough pins there last year. It would be nice to see them put one down in a bowl where people can have a really good chance at a hole-in-one.
“That’d really get the crowd going.”
Click here to secure your tickets to the ISPS HANDA Australian Open. The ISPS HANDA Australian Open is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.
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