02 Sep 2021 | Professional golf |
Smith's long locks stay for Tour Champs
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
Not even a $US15 million pay day will convince Cam Smith to cut the mullet as the Queenslander prepares to give the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup finale one almighty shake.
No Australian golfer has ever been crowned the FedEx Cup champion and Smith – our only competitor in the 30-man Tour Championship field – will start the opening round five strokes back of No.1 seed Patrick Cantlay.
Such a deficit can be reeled in quickly over the course of four days of tournament golf but Smith will require a much-improved week with the driver and a continuation of his stellar play around the greens to claim the $US15 million first prize bounty.
Since his title defence of the Sony Open in January, Smith’s exceedingly cascading mullet has become something of a signature, even earning him a nomination for the best Aussie mullet to flow at the Olympics in Tokyo. But beneath the distinguishable hairstyle is a golfer enjoying the best year of his career. Which is partly why Smith – who says he’s not superstitious – won’t have the clippers nearby if he triumphs at East Lake Golf Club on Sunday.
“Seems like the hair is here to stay until I play bad golf,” says Smith, now ranked No.23 in the world and Australia’s highest-ranked male player.
“I’ve not really had a bad run of tournaments yet. Fingers crossed it’ll be staying for a while.” Starting with the ZOZO Championship last October, Smith has accrued five top-five finishes, won the Zurich Classic alongside Marc Leishman, represented his country at the Olympics where he narrowly missed the bronze medal playoff and has amassed $US5,851,867 in prize money.
That will get a significant boost regardless of what happens over the next 72 holes but now that he is in position to contend, the 28-year-old wants to leave Atlanta with a big finish to his season.
“I haven’t really had a chance of winning the FedExCup,” said Smith.
“I’m just going out there to give it my best shot and hopefully walking up 18 on Sunday, I’ve got a shot at winning the FedEx Cup.”
In two previous appearances at the Tour Championship Smith’s best finish is 20th in 2018 yet he believes its green complexes can play to what has been a strength all season and indeed throughout his career.
“I feel like around the greens, on the greens, it’s probably been my best year on Tour. It frees me up into the greens,” said Smith, admitting that his driver has been a source of frustration in recent tournaments.
“I’ve played here a couple of times and you really have to hit it straight around here. It’s very penal in the rough and it’s very tricky around the greens.
“These are some of the best greens we putt on all year. And if you get onto the wrong side of the hole, it’s going to be quite harsh.
“You’ve got to be smart and hit it straight. As the week goes on, I’m sure the course will play a bit firmer. Those guys playing a bit earlier in the morning can take advantage of the softer conditions.”
The closest an Aussie has come to winning the FedEx Cup was Jason Day in 2015, who started the week ranked No.1 before finishing in third position behind Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson.
Smith has been drawn to play with American Justin Thomas in the opening round and will tee off at 3.40am AEST Friday morning.
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