Cameron Smith plays the Tour Championship for the first time this week. Can he become just the second Australian to capture the title and the first to lift the FedEx Cup?
Cameron Smith knows it’s going to take something special for him to become the first Australian to win the FedEx Cup when he makes his maiden appearance at the US$9-million (AUD$14m) Tour Championship this week. But stranger things have happened – and the Queenslander is prepared to give it everything he’s got after rediscovering his best form during the season-ending playoffs.
Despite arriving at East Lake ranked 10th in the FedEx Cup standings, Smith could still hoist the Cup if he wins the season finale and those ranked above him find themselves even slightly off their game.
It’s not the simplest of equations, however … Smith will need to beat all-comers in Georgia and hope that: Bryson DeChambeau finishes in a three-way tie for 4th or worse; Justin Rose finishes T3 or worse; Tony Finau finishes in a three-way tie for 2nd or worse; Dustin Johnson finishes in T2 or worse and Justin Thomas finishes 2nd or worse.
“I know a few things have to go my way to get my hands on the FedEx Cup,” Smith said during a teleconference earlier this week.
“I’m just going down there and just preparing as if it’s another Tour event, just put in everything I can and if it happens, it happens.”
The 25-year-old, who was recently selected by Marc Leishman to form the Australian pairing for the 2018 World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, has posted six top-five finishes this season, including at the Masters (T5) and the opening two events of the playoffs.
“I felt as though I’ve played really good all year,” Smith said.
But the defending Australian PGA champion struggled badly on the US Tour between April and June, missing five consecutive cuts and only breaking par once. His short game – which is by far his greatest asset – had dropped right off and there was newfound pressure on other aspects of his game. Smith acted promptly, diagnosing the problem and getting to work on the practice facilities.
“I’m just going down there and just preparing as if it’s another Tour event, just put in everything I can and if it happens, it happens.” – Cameron Smith
“Through the middle bit of the year, it just felt like kind of nothing was going my way on the golf course,” Smith added. “But I just got back to what I know, spent a lot of time around the chipping green, putting green the last kind of month or so and that’s just kind of taken a lot of stress back off my long game and that’s allowed that to free up.”
The World No.33, who will be fuelled by his T3 at The Northern Trust and 3rd at the Dell Technologies Championship, is vying to become just the second Australian to capture the Tour Championship in the event’s 31-year history (Adam Scott, 2006).
Smith will be joined at East Lake by Jason Day and Leishman, who are both mathematical chances to lift the FedEx Cup and claim the US$10-million bonus. But Leishman, who is currently ranked 29th in the standings, isn’t prepared to entertain those thoughts.
“I’m pretty much going there not even thinking about the FedEx Cup, just thinking about trying to win the tournament,” Leishman said.
“It’s basically zero that I’m going to win the FedEx Cup, but there’s still $9 million and a trophy at the end of the week. I’m going to go there and have the best week I can have, try and walk away with a trophy, and hopefully Cam can play good and walk away with the FedEx Cup.”
Day, who is 12th in the standings, remains confident he can become the first Australian to win the Cup since its inception in 2007.
The former World No.1 hasn’t produced his best golf during this season’s playoffs (his T20 at The Northern Trust is his best result to date). But he finished runner-up to Jordan Spieth in the 2015 FedEx Cup and certainly knows what it takes to succeed in the postseason.
“It’s definitely realistic; you can catch fire,” Day said prior to the BMW Championship. “Sometimes, all it takes is one moment to spark you and ignite that flame.”