On Sunday night with a beer in hand Cameron Smith was hoisted on the shoulders of friends as he watched the final putt for his Australian PGA victory go in, again and again, to raucous cheers and singing.
It was the perfect celebration for an Australian star just so happy to be back playing at home and “buzzing” with positive energy after a sapping year that included fending off criticism from “keyboard warriors” about his controversial move to LIV Golf.
Smith said he downed a “big, greasy” breakfast on Monday as he nursed a sore head and shared a coffee with his grandma, whose chemotherapy battle had inspired him to his third PGA title.
But after arriving in Melbourne on Tuesday, his hangover slowly dissipating, Smith declared his first trip home in three years still needed one box ticked.
As a “process guy” who “loves ticking boxes”, this week’s Australian Open has been a goal ever since borders opened, and in a warning shot to the rest of the field, Smith said he was playing so well he felt like he could win from anywhere.
“Yeah, I think so,” Smith said greenside at Kingston Heath, one of two locations for this week’s historic dual-gender Australian Open.
“I think over the weekend, I think the golf got better, but I definitely still didn’t have my best stuff and it’s nice to do that, you know have those three or four birdies late not having your best stuff is pretty awesome to do.
“These courses really demand everything of your game, so you need to be spot on this week.”
On Monday, former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said Smith was in that rare vein of form only the best get to enjoy, that sense of being able to conquer any field and any course.
On Tuesday, another US PGA Tour winner said “every player, every official, even the bloke serving beers” knows Smith is the man to beat this week, where he could be the first man since Greg Chalmers in 2011 to do the Australian PGA and Open double.
Smith put his rich run in 2022, which includes five wins, down to refining his process to the point of repeatability that ensures his best stuff is never far away, no matter where he is.
But being home added that extra level of comfort and confidence to ensure he’ll be somewhere in the mix on Sunday,
“Definitely takes a while to figure out what process works. I think we‘ve got it pretty close right now,” Smith said.
“I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing as a team and just keep doing it better.
“We’ve got a it pretty down pat as what works for me, just keep working hard and keep ticking those boxes and hopefully can keep this going for a little while longer.
“I haven’t won one (Australian Open) yet, so this has been on my radar now for a long time. I think I’ve been close a few times and haven’t quite got it done.
“So no better week than to win one in Melbourne.”