Perhaps one of the guests who stayed at the Dunvegan Hotel, which claims to be just nine irons from the Old Course, last July remembers Cameron Smith’s British Open better than he does. There is a nature.
That’s because Smith roughly recalled the Sunday that led him to a major tournament championship recently. He tees off, misses the putt on the ninth hole, finds himself in the lead, and finishes “not feeling so good.” I’m happy, but I’m also relieved. ”
He sees this as a memory, a strength almost freed from the burden of talent and failure.
“Taking a golf shot and forgetting it is one of my greatest assets,” Smith said in an interview. Like all professional golfers, he has a friend who “remembers every shot from every tournament he’s played in.”
“But it’s something,” he continued, “I never could.”
He’s the one who passed the British Open winner’s claret mug last year with a beer (he concluded that Australian XXXX Gold tasted the best).
His first major title defense begins on Thursday at the British course, Royal Liverpool, which hosts the 151st British Open.
Evaluating Smith’s past year is an exercise in the analysis of choosing your own adventures. He had three straight top 10 finishes at the Masters Tournament before disappointing in April, finishing tied for 34th in the only major he hasn’t missed a weekend.
But Smith’s match at Oak Hill in May was his best PGA Championship finish of his career (tied for ninth), finishing fourth after missing out on three U.S. Open qualifications in five years. and left Los Angeles. Less than two weeks later, he won the LIV Golf Tournament near London, his second individual win since joining the Saudi-backed circuit last summer. Perhaps the event was an extraordinary preparation for Royal Liverpool’s taunts and terrors, even for past Open champions.
“The wind feels very different in England and Scotland,” said Marc Leishman, one of Smith’s LIV teammates earlier this month. “It’s a lot heavier. It’s very important to get used to taking the spin off the ball. Cam is very good at that point, throwing wedges and putting on it, so he’s a pretty formidable opponent.” .”
Smith’s slump at the start of the year (relatively speaking) was probably due to what was the longest vacation of his career at the age of 29. He won the Australian PGA Championship but missed out on qualifying for the Australian Open and was in desperate need of a reboot after years of pandemic turmoil and global attention. Even now, he considers himself a professional athlete and “I don’t want people to know who I am,” he says. If he had his way, he probably would have gone fishing.
So, while this hiatus was a wonderful and important relief for his psyche, it did hinder his playing golf, at least for the time being. When he returned to competition, his lack of preparation was evident. He finished mid-place in two of the first three LIV events of the year and missed out on the Saudi tournament.
He still preferred to practice removing mirrors in his Florida office (not on the green because he was lazy), but grudgingly accepted that his driver needed more work. . By the time he arrived in Los Angeles for the U.S. Open in June, he was eager to embrace the old-fashioned approach. He didn’t care too much about distance, trying to get his ball down the fairway and taking chances for birdies.
he Finished 50th in driving distance Got 19 birdies, Tie for 2nd place in the field Comparable to winner Windham Clarke. He was 31st in driving distance at Augusta and tied for 37th in birdies with 13.
“I feel like I’ve been working pretty hard. I’ve been playing golf really well. I just let go and let things happen,” he said of his comeback. “And certainly I’m starting to feel really good in the last few majors.”
But Smith’s lighthearted magic, obvious to anyone online for a minute watching him conquer the road hall on Sunday when he won the Claret Jug, stems in large part from his sense of balance. increase. He inherited it from his mother, which he thinks is perhaps unsurprising for a player who suffered from homesickness in the early days of the PGA Tour.
Pandemic didn’t help. His mother and sister were at TPC Sawgrass when he won the Tour’s Players Championship in March 2022, having just reunited with Smith after more than two years of border restrictions. Six months later, he was ranked No. 2 in the world and one of LIV’s most hyped contracts.
But even before the sudden announcement last month about a possible de-escalation between the warring circuits, he has so far managed to avoid being seen as quite the villain. The time he spent expressing his dissatisfaction in public is limited. He admits he has shortcomings on the LIV field compared to the PGA Tour. When the LIV tournament was not sanctioned, it was inevitable that he would drop in the world rankings, but he didn’t rant because his chances of reaching No. 1 were fading.
“I made the bed myself, so I’m happy to sleep in it,” he said in an interview in March. Now that perhaps a tentative peace is being established in professional golf, he wonders if he can hit a shot, after all.
“Don’t get me wrong, I want to beat everyone else,” he said. “But there’s no reason why you can’t do it with a smile.”
This week he faces 155 other men, all of whom are clamoring to reject him for another year at the Claret Jug. Currently ranked No. 7 in the world and gearing up for a field of more than a dozen British Open winners, he has a drink backup plan.
“The Australian PGA Trophy is very nice,” he said. “You can definitely put more beer in it.”
Still, he said he had tears in his eyes when he returned the claret jug to the British Open organizers this week.
“I wasn’t going to let it go,” he said at a news conference Monday. “But it’s just for a second, you don’t think about it, and then all of a sudden it’s there and yes, you want it back.”