In the Hawaiian paradise, Cameron Smith ready for encore after record-setting week

·4 min read

It’s good to be Cameron Smith.

For starters, he’s in paradise for this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

And last week wasn’t too shabby, either. En route to winning the year-opening, winners-only Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui, the mullet-wearing Aussie set the PGA Tour record for most strokes under par in a 72-hole event at 34 under.

He repeatedly stepped up and held off playing partner, World No. 1 Jon Rahm, in the final two rounds.

In his previous 504 rounds on the PGA Tour, Smith had posted four rounds of 8 under or better; in the Sentry, his rounds 65-64-64-65 all were 8 under or better.

He made 31 birdies, three eagles, and just three bogeys – none on his last 52 holes.

He joined Bryson DeChambeau (2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic) as the only two winners to rank first in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Putting since 2004.

He won just shy of $1.5 million.

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And he became the sixth player to complete the Hawaii double, winning both the Sentry Tournament of Champions (2022) and the Sony Open in Hawaii (2020).

“Golf game felt really good obviously coming down the stretch there with one of the best golfers in the world. To match up with him was something I’ll never forget,” Smith said Wednesday at Waialae Country Club.

Felt really good? The scoring was so alarming last week that Webb Simpson, in his Charlotte home, had to interrupt his morning routine to make sure what he was seeing was right.

“I’m checking the scores, haven’t had my coffee, I’m half-asleep, I kind of did this with my eyes because I see 11 and 12 and then my coffee process stopped because I had to see all these score cards,” Simpson said. “It was crazy.

“It was talked about a lot, but I feel like only those in the golf world really know how good that was. You (golf media) know, players know, caddies know, but I think the typical golf fan, it’s probably hard for them to conceive how good 34-under is. It’s amazing.”

And now, as he’s his own tough act to follow, Smith will try to join Ernie Els (2003) and Justin Thomas (2017) as the only players to win the Hawaii double in the same year. But don’t expect the pressure to get to Smith, or that he’ll go changing his ways now that he’s cracked the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time (he’s 10th), or because he has five PGA Tour titles at age 28.

“I’ve always kind of grown up with the mentality, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If everything is all working, just do what you need to do, get comfortable and go do something else and relax and get your mind and body right for Thursday,” he said. “I’ve never really wanted to expect anything of myself. I’ve always been a process kind of guy. I feel like if I tick all the boxes I’m going to play some good golf. For sure I definitely want to play well but I never really expect too much of myself.”

His week in Honolulu has gotten off to a great start. After taking Monday off to rest, he did some light work at the course on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, he played the pro-am with motion picture star, Mark Walhberg.

Mark Wahlberg (L) and Cameron Smith (R) of Australia fist bump on the 11th hole during the Pro-Am Tournament prior to the start of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 12, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

“Mark was a really good lad,” Smith said. “We had some laughs. One of my best pro-am experiences I think ever. It was really good fun.”

Come Thursday, however, it’s a new week and a new tournament. And this week will be drastically different. The Plantation Course at Kapalua that Smith torched was built into the side of the mountain and features immense fairways and greens. As well, soft breezes throughout the week barely moved the pin flags.

This week presents a harder challenge from tee to green.

“It’s one of the hardest weeks on Tour to hit the fairways, especially with how firm they get over the weekend,” Smith said. “It feels good to be confident with the driver. There’s a lot of 3-woods and iron shots as well; it’s a tricky little place, this one, but I love it.”

So don’t expect a major letdown from Smith. He’s always been well centered and rarely gets ahead of himself. He’ll take this week in a manner worthy of the golf cliché – one hole at a time.

“Just really looking forward to this week,” he said. “I’m ready to get back into it.”