Cameron Smith was born to workingclass parents in Brisbane, but it was last November inside the gates at famed Augusta National that the Australian came of age. Smith, playing in just his fourth Masters, became the first player in the tournament’s storied history to shoot four rounds in the 60s, an accomplishment one might reasonably believe would be enough to land an appointment in the Butler Cabin for the slipping on of a Green Jacket. If not for Dustin Johnson and an historic performance of his own, one would have been correct.
One day, perhaps. Instead, the 27-year-old, whose 15-under total would have won all but seven of the 84 playings of the tournament, missed out on becoming just the second Aussie to win the Green Jacket after Adam Scott, who broke the curse in 2013. He settled for a tie for second, along with Sungjae Im, five strokes back of Johnson.
Still, there was little to be disappointed about. For Smith – who learned the game at a young age from his father, Des, a scratch golfer himself who worked in the printing business and was home in time for when the oldest of two children [Smith also has a younger sister] finished school for the day – it was his best career finish in a Major and third top-five overall.
Not bad for a player who is hardly among the longest hitters in the bomb-and-gouge era – Smith averaged a middle-of-the-pack 299.8 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour last season – nor one of the game’s most accurate with his irons. Indeed, only once has he ranked in the top 100 in Strokes Gained: Approach. A nifty short game, being handy with the flatstick and having a hefty dose of guile does Smith just fine. Already, he’s won twice on both the PGA and European Tours, netted more than $13 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour and played in the Presidents Cup.
Life off the course isn’t so bad, either. Smith, who settled in Ponte Vedra, Florida, with his American girlfriend Jordan Ontiveros [a golfer herself who had a brief stint on the Symetra Tour], likes it laid-back, spending his downtime fishing, enjoying a coffee or pint and watching rugby league. There’s also a tight-knit cadre of countrymen in the area that makes him feel at home.
But what about this year’s Masters? Smith recently sat down for an interview with GM to look ahead by first looking back...
Masters Sunday, November 2020. What do you remember about that day?
It was just another tournament being in contention, I guess. You learn something about yourself every time you’re in that position. I’ve always been a gritty player and it shows on a day like that, I think. I absolutely loved being in that spot and having a chance to win.
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