Date: November 16, 2016
Author: Martin Blake

Quiet man Smith sneaks in with a chance

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Cameron Smith could be excused for the odd yawn or two out at Royal Sydney today. The Queenslander had only flown in from the northern hemisphere at 6am, and was required on course for the pro-am by noon today. Such is the life of the pro golfer, not always so glamorous.

Smith played in a United States PGA tour event last week in Mayakoba, Mexico. His trek began at Cancun and included a stopover in Dallas, Texas, totalling 23 hours. Not that he was complaining.

"I'm not too bad,'' he told ausopengolf.com. "I got a good rest on the plane. I'm sure pretty soon I'll hit a big wall.''

Smith, 23, the former Australian amateur champion out of Brisbane, is one of the highest-rated players in the field this week for the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney. For reasons that take some explaining, he remains unheralded and barely mentioned, notwithstanding the fact he finished in the top five in a United States Open as recently as last year.

That performance — capped with an amazing fairway wood shot for an eagle at his final hole at Chambers Bay — might have rocketed him to stardom since he finished equal-fourth behind Jordan Spieth in his first appearance in a major, a remarkable performance. But it has not, because Smith does not talk publicly too often and is happy to stay out of the limelight. "I hate publicity,'' he said, and he is only half-joking.

His form is good on tour. He has made four from four cuts on the US Tour at the start of a new season, including 11th in the Sanderson Farms event and 10th in the Shriners Open, earning almost $US300,000. He is 37th on the points standings.

"It's been really solid, nothing too special, sticking to the guns and playing a bit more aggressive,'' he said.

"It's playing more aggressively, but not stupid aggressive. I had this massive perception when I got on the US Tour that everyone was smart and everyone was just firing at pins, making as many birdies as they can. I adapted that a little bit, which is sort of how I used to play anyway. It's been kind of nice getting back to that, and obviously putting well helps.''

Smith is starting his third year, and feels more comfortable in his environment. He has a US base at Jacksonville, Florida, which means he can practice at Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship.

"Hopefully I'll be there for the rest of my life,'' he said. "I feel very comfortable out there. I'm getting to know a few of the guys now. I try to hang out with those (Australian) guys as much as I can, not that we get much spare time anyway.''

He is one to watch this week, hitting off at noon tomorrow with Rod Pampling and top amateur Brett Coletta. "I love this course. I played the last Open they had here. It's just a good golf course. Small fairways tight greens, it can be windy as well. So it should be good.''