Cameron Smith feeling at home in Ponte Vedra and The Players Championship

For one more Monday, the redfish of Northeast Florida can breathe a little easier.

The man with the mullet had bigger fish to fry.

Whether he's chasing down redfish or red numbers, Ponte Vedra Beach resident Cameron Smith is loving life on the First Coast at The Players Championship.

If not for the three days of off-and-on storms that threw the usual schedule at The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass into a washing machine, Smith said he likely would have spent his Monday out on the water -- instead of trying to steer clear of water.

"It was pretty good fishing weather this morning, to be honest, nice and calm," he said.

What kind?

"Redfish is good at the moment," he said.

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Cameron Smith tees off on 16 of the Players Stadium Course Monday, March 14, 2022 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. Monday marked finishing third rounds and final rounds of golf for The Players Championship. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

As the Olympic golfer continues his rise to No. 10 in the World Golf Ranking, the First Coast is becoming more of a home away from his original home in Brisbane, Australia.

Among the best parts: When thunderstorms washed out long stretches of golf around midday Thursday, nearly all of Friday and Saturday morning, Smith didn't have to shake up his usual weekend routine.

"The rain delay, being able to be in my own house, that really helped out," Smith said. "I don't know what I would have done for a couple of days there if I was in a hotel room."

After missing the cut in his first two appearances at the May editions of The Players, Smith has started to make the course his own. He tied for 56th in 2019 and finished in a tie for 17th at 7 under in 2021, including a third-round 65.

Smith's First Coast successes should be no surprise: Australia stands second only to the United States in past Players champions: Greg Norman in 1988, Adam Scott in 2004, Jason Day in 2016, plus a two-time winner in Steve Elkington in 1991 and 1997.

"When it's playing firm and fast," Smith said, "it reminds us a lot of home."

Delay left Cameron Smith with a lot to make up

The delay left him with a lot of golf to make up: entering Monday morning, he still had seven third-round holes and an entire fourth round to come.

The last two holes of Monday morning's third round encapsulated how Smith's game suits the Stadium Course when things are going well -- and when they're not.

Smith nearly conquered the Island Green on Monday morning, taking aim at the hole, landing on the surface and spinning it back to within a foot to set up a tap-in birdie. His approach was the second-closest of the round, behind only the Sunday afternoon hole-in-one by Shane Lowry.

Then, on 18, Smith missed wide right into the trees off the tee, so often a sign of impending disaster. But he punched out through congestion to the greenside bunker, chipped onto the green and saved par from 6 feet, which brought him into Monday morning clubhouse two strokes behind Anirban Lahiri of India.

At 28, time is on Smith's side at The Players for years to come. As for the redfish? They'd better watch out for the mullet, and fast.

"I heard about [TPC Sawgrass] my whole life basically," Smith said, "and then to be able to play and practice out here is pretty cool."

Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: 2022 Players Championship: Cameron Smith loving TPC Sawgrass, redfish