Cam’s ‘Christmas PGA’ wish to join greats
Cameron Smith will chase a trophy three-peat at the "Christmas PGA" at Royal Pines to enshrine his name beside golf legends Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in the tournament's rich history.
The popular Queensland golfer revealed he was drawn to their luminous mark on the tournament in the 1980s most of all when he cradled the Joe Kirkwood Cup for the second time at Royal Pines last year.
Confirming he will defend the Australian PGA on the Gold Coast, from December 19-22, was always a sure thing, yet it comes with a clear dose of Smith's understated ambition to keep accumulating golf's biggest baubles in his homeland.
"Seeing Greg (1984-85) and Seve (1981) engraved on the trophy, a couple of Hall of Famers, made the biggest impression and it's pretty cool to have my name beside them," Smith said from his Florida base.
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"I always say I play my best golf when I'm relaxed and I'm never more so than on the Gold Coast for this week of the year with friends, family and golf club mates from Wantima around or in the galleries.
"It's been pretty insane (with the final round support) the past few years and having a crack at three in a row should be fun."
Smith's commitment to the PGA locks him into the full swing of the golfing summer after the Australian Open at The Australian Golf Club (December 5-8) and the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne (December 12-15).
It also creates a magnetic showdown at Royal Pines, where Smith's duel with fellow favourite Adam Scott can rival the Scott-Rickie Fowler (2013) and Smith-Marc Leishman (2018) head-to-heads.
Smith, 26, is chasing a big finish to what he regards as a "very frustrating year", with just two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, a three-month flat patch mid-season and a drift in his world ranking from No. 28 to No. 45.
"I'd love to give you a bulls--- excuse but I don't have one," Smith said with typical candour.
It's balanced by his best-ever British Open, with joint 20th at taxing Royal Portrush, knowing he's taking no shortcuts with his practice and earning automatic selection for the Presidents Cup.
"I know every part of my game is better than it was, say, three years ago and I'm doing everything to keep improving, but golf, and sport in general, is like this," Smith said.
"That British Open was big for confidence and I stepped up (65-68-73-68) in Memphis a week later (for 12th) when I really had to for Presidents Cup selection, so that was a good sign."
Smith admitted that sealing selection for the Presidents Cup had been a major focus of his year and a big thrill now he had secured his place in the Internationals team led by captain Ernie Els.
"It was definitely playing on my mind that I'd kind of been on the cusp of the top eight, in and out, for a long time so to play really well in Memphis gave me a lot of satisfaction," he said.
Smith has already come through the most pressured moment of his year so staring down Tiger Woods and Team USA at Royal Melbourne can't really be that hard.
It arrived in August when he was on the mound before a Major League Baseball game to throw the celebratory first pitch for the New York Mets, a privilege scrutinised closely by father Des, a former A grade baseballer with North Star.
"Custard arm" was the kindest translation of his father's rating.
"OK, my main goal was just to get the throw over the plate, which I did, but Dad is still giving me crap 100 per cent," Smith said with a laugh.