Aussie No.1 Cameron Smith has made a slight adjustment to his driver to enhance his chances of a breakthrough major title at this week’s U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Smith leads the seven-strong Australian contingent seeking to join David Graham and Geoff Ogilvy as U.S. Open champions in a championship he feels plays to the strengths of his game.
Possessing a short game the envy of golf’s elite and iron play that opens up numerous birdie opportunities in the course of a round, Smith’s greatest struggle of late has been in finding fairways off the tee.
U.S. Opens are rarely won from the gnarly rough that frames the single-lane fairways the tournament is renowned for.
His driving accuracy percentage of 56.70 this season ranks him 151st on the PGA Tour and he is 143rd in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, numbers that rarely equate to U.S. Open success.
It’s an area of his game that he and coach Grant Field have played particular attention in recent times and has necessitated a change to his driver set-up to give the World No.6 the best chance of contending on Sunday.
In the search for more control he has taken a half-inch off his regular Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X shaft and adjusted the weight in the head of his Titleist TSi3 driver, liking what he was seeing on the range on Tuesday.
“We had to change up the head weight a little bit to get the swing rate the same,” Smith said of his changes.
“Just cut down half an inch and hit a few balls on the range today.
“I just felt like I could control that kind of fairway, find the swing I guess a little bit more.
“That’s what we need.”
Field has been guiding Smith from his Sunshine Coast base all year, the pair reverting to the same swing mechanics that has delivered two titles in 2022 and five PGA Tour titles in his career.
“It’s always the same stuff, and it’s just what I need to get back to,” Smith added.
“That first move away from the ball for me is really key. When I get away from that, the whole swing kind of dismantles itself.
“I find it hard with driver to stay in control of that first sequence of the swing.
“I know exactly what I’m doing. It’s just when you are out there trying to hit golf shots sometimes it gets away from you.”
Despite contending up until the final round at The Memorial, the Queenslander hit just 50 percent of greens in regulation for the week and at last week’s RBC Canadian Open hit less than 49 percent of fairways across the four rounds.
They are stats that a stellar short game can only hold up for so long but his coach pointed to his most recent start in a major to highlight that his ball-striking tee-to-green remains a strength.
“It certainly wasn’t his best ball-striking week but it’s not an issue at all,” said Field of his performance at Jack Nicklaus’ event.
“You look the week before at the PGA and it was the opposite.
“He led or was second for the week in ball-striking and didn’t putt as well.
“He’s No.2 in Strokes Gained: Approach The Green and his driver’s been getting better the last little bit as well."
“I feel like I’ve had a little bit of success in U.S. Opens before and this is a really good venue for me. It’s probably my favourite US Open venue I think I’ve been to." - Cam Smith.
If he can get his long game to match up with his short game Smith believes the examination posed by a U.S. Open is an environment in which he excels.
He shot to prominence as a 21-year-old seven years ago with a tie four fourth at the 2015 event at Chambers Bay and is now ready to use his elevated place in the game to make a major statement.
“I love the majors. I feel like they bring out the best in me,” said the 28-year-old who was tied for third at The Masters and tied for 13th at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
“I love the demand for good play and just the grinding out good scores.
“I feel like I’ve had a little bit of success in U.S. Opens before and this is a really good venue for me.
“It’s probably my favourite US Open venue I think I’ve been to.
“Lots of options off the tee. Just a real typical old-school course. I love it.”
Smith’s status as one of the game’s best players is reflected in his playing partner the first two days, paired with two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and current World No.1 Scottie Scheffler at 3:25am AEST.