Cameron Smith doesn’t feel any different as the defending champion heading into this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
“No, not really, mate, to be honest,” the Aussie said Tuesday in a media call from Waialae Country Club. “I’m pretty crazy. I don’t really like to get into that stuff. I mean, defending champion, I’m sure I’ll be in a decent group on Thursday and Friday, so maybe a little bit more pressure there.”
Smith, however, is sporting a different look. Channeling some rugby players in his homeland of Australia, Smith started to let his hair out during quarantine months ago and is now covering a mullet with his golf cap.
“Just something fun. Make people have a laugh about it,” Smith said. “I’ve just kind of kept it going. I’ve almost turned it into my good luck charm. It’s not bad. I think it needs a little bit of a trim at the front.
“I’d really like to go full business at the front and party at the back. But maybe within the next couple months, it might change up a little bit.”
Well, the hair change has been along for a pretty good ride on the PGA Tour. Since the start of last year’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, Smith has been outside the top 25 just once in nine starts and risen from 52nd in the world rankings to No. 29.
Among the good play was a tie for second in the Masters in November, where he became the first player in tournament history to finish all four rounds in the 60s. Still, his rounds of 67-68-69-69 left him five back of winner Dustin Johnson.
“It’s just been really solid,” Smith, 27, said of his recent stretch of play. “Nothing has kind of stuck out, I guess, as being really good. I’ve actually putted really well. I lied, I’ve putted really well. I feel as though if I can get my longer stuff, and especially my irons into a good spot, I’ll be able to compete every week.
“Just working on that with the coach. I mean, not trying to overdo it. Just little steps. Hopefully it all falls into place very soon.”
Last year, everything fell into place en route to his victory in the Sony Open. Smith battled back from being 4 over just two holes into the tournament but still trailed Brendan Steele by two shots with two holes to play on Sunday.
But Steele bogeyed the 17th and Smith, needing a birdie on the 18th to force a playoff, poured in an 8-footer and joined Steele in a playoff.
Smith won with a par on the first playoff hole.
After winning the Australian PGA Championship in 2017 and 2018 and teaming with Jonas Blixt to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Smith had his first individual title on the PGA Tour.
“It’s definitely going to be one I never forget,” Smith said after the win. “Given the conditions and how tough it was, I’ll draw back in this in the future.”
It’s been a nice future so far.
“It seems like so long ago now, really,” Smith said of his Sony victory. “It was just a great week. I came directly from Australia. Didn’t have much time off because of the Presidents Cup and was coming off some pretty good form and felt good about my game.
“Didn’t get off to the best start but kind of stuck in there. The weather was a bit dicey last year, so it was one of those weeks where I think it could go either way for some people, and just managed to hang in there and yeah, Sunday afternoon, had a really good chance of winning and took advantage of it.”
Smith, who finished in a tie for 24th in last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, is in an ideal place to continue his fine form.
“It just reminds me so much of home, to be honest,” Smith said of Waialae Country Club. “The grasses are almost the same. Where I grew up is very flat. It’s always windy. You always have to control your ball into the greens, which I love doing. I feel as though you can be very creative around the greens here.
“I love it. Great golf course.
“I’m looking forward to Thursday. I feel as though I’ve come off a pretty solid week last week. Felt as though I played better than what my score resulted in. So yeah, hopefully give it a good defend.”