It’s easy to see results from afar and write off a player as a spent force.
So it is with Cameron Smith, the young Queenslander who shot to international prominence at last year’s US Open when he nearly holed out for albatross on the final hole and finished tied fourth on debut.
The 22-year-old has been far from that lofty form in 2016, with just two top-35 finishes in 16 starts in his first full US PGA Tour season.
But as he returns to the tournament that so nearly made him a legend, the full truth of his physical battles in 2016 has been revealed.
After a promising T11 at Pebble Beach, Smith began to feel sick during his ultimately failed Masters attempt.
His full illness just beginning to blossom, he turned opening rounds of 74 and 73 at Augusta National into a 15-over blowout before returning home to Brisbane.
While being in Queensland for a long stretch hadn’t been in his plans, it was ultimately a great call as his already lithe frame was about to take a fierce beating from an unidentified stomach bug.
And only now is Smith approaching full fitness again.
“From Augusta onwards it has been pretty bad until Sunday of last week,” he said after sharing separate US Open practice rounds with major champions Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
“The doctors were all a bit baffled (about my condition). I couldn’t eat and they suggested it could have been a parasite, but we really don’t know.
“The week after the Masters was the worst—I probably lost 3-4kg in that week alone. I just couldn’t eat and was just struggling to do everyday things.
“Literally every time I ate I felt like it was going to come up. That sickness feeling just came after a couple of bites … I was really lucky I was at home.”
Smith lost about 7kg and only now has bounced back from a base of 66kg to a decent playing weight at 71kg.
“I lost a ton of weight and it was kind of tough getting out of bed there for a while, so to be where I am now is good.”
He was quick to point out he was not seeking sympathy.
“It’s a fact of life, everyone gets sick once in a while. I’ve had my good bits and this was my time for a bad bit. It just came a pretty bad time, but there’s not much you can do about it,” he said.
“You can’t sit back and make excuses, just keep going forward and doing what I did last year to make it work.”
And to return to a course he has played a handful of times with his agent and Oakmont member Bud Martin, Smith couldn’t be happier with the timing.
“If I am not 100 per cent, I am very close. Definitely trying to play tournament golf with your body not being 100 per cent is tough, especially in a week like this which will definitely put it to the test.
“But it is good to be back. I love the set-up, I love the course. I’ve played here a few times … so it’s nice to come back.”
Smith has happily already forged a reputation as being a man for the big occasion – and he’s hoping that trend continues.
“Yeah, that sits OK with me,” he said with a broad smile.
“I love the big tournaments, love rising to the occasion and love a good tough test of golf as well.
“Out here it’s just basically about sticking to your game plan, hitting some good shots and growing some balls and just doing it.
“I haven’t had the best start to the season – definitely not the start I wanted.
“But I think I can sort of restart the season from here and try and have a good run of tournaments. Hopefully I can get on a bit of a streak and have a good finish to the rest of the season.”