Taming his recalcitrant driver will be crucial as Cameron Smith tries to win an elusive first major title at the 104th US PGA Championship in Oklahoma.
Smith enters the second major of the year from Thursday night (AEST) at a career world No. 4 after a frustrating near miss at last month’s Masters.
Australia’s big hope says his “game feels really good” after a two-week refresh but knows he can’t just rely on his world-class scrambling to make it around the Southern Hills layout at Tulsa.
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Despite four top-10 finishes at Augusta National, the 28-year-old Smith has only posted one top-25 result at the PGA Championship, which demands more precision off the tee.
“The PGA is probably the one I’ve struggled the most with,” he said.
“It’s usually set up, very demanding off the tee. I don’t think that’s really my strong point here.
“A lot of work last week on the pilot. Trying to get it right rather than trying to squeeze a little more distance out of it.”
While Smith ranks seventh on the PGA Tour in shots gained on approach, he’s a modest 150th in driving accuracy, hitting just 56.8% of the fairways this season.
He knows he has to be better this week.
“I think I need more opportunities on the fairway, especially here. The rough can be quite penalizing,” Smith said.
After picking up the biggest win of his career at The Players Championship in March, Smith gave himself a huge shot at winning the green jacket in Augusta.
Playing in the final group on Sunday, the 28-year-old came close to a Scottie Scheffler shot with birdies on his first two holes.
But a triple bogey on the par-3 12th after finding the water on Amen Corner reduced his chances.
“I wouldn’t say I regret anything,” Smith said.
“I think there are shots you have to hit to win tournament golf, and sometimes they just don’t work.
“Frustrated, yes, for a little while, but definitely no regrets.”
The Queenslander doesn’t feel the need to deviate from his confident routine as he tries to win an elusive Major.
“I like to treat every week the same. I don’t like to arrive earlier and do a little more preparation,” he said.
“Play 18, 27 holes, really work out the firmness and speed of the greens, and then from there really work on some range shots that I may have picked up here and there.
“Yeah, just be ready and fresh for Thursday.”
Smith is spearheading an eight-man Australian Challenge in Southern Hills.
Jason Day, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Min Woo Lee, Cam Davis, Matt Jones and Lucas Herbert are also in the 156-man squad.
Day, winner of the PGA Championship in 2015 and runner-up the following year, missed the Masters after falling outside the world top 100.
But the former world No. 1 has shown signs of resurgence in recent weeks, leading the Wells Fargo Championship halfway two weeks ago and closing with a 66 on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
He also led Farmers Insurance’s final round in January, but was unable to close the deal.
But with six top-10 finishes, the US PGA Championship was Day’s best major championship.