In 2017, Brisbane native Cameron Smith captured his first PGA TOUR victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he and Swedish teammate Jonas Blixt outlasted Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a four-hole playoff. The 24-year-old, who already has five top-10 finishes this season, is back in New Orleans this week with Blix to defend his title. But before he takes on the TPC Louisiana course, Smith sat down to discuss team golf, his relationship with Blixt, and how life has changed since his breakthrough win.
How are things different for you now, one year after your first PGA TOUR win at the Zurich Classic with Jonas?
Cameron Smith: The things that have changed have probably just been the security in my job and the freedom to be out there on the course. (It lets me) play a little bit more aggressively when I need to and try to win some golf tournaments, rather than be out there just trying to earn some points and keep going to the next week. Definitely a lot better strategy, but also a lot different.
An Australian and a Swede got together to win the first PGA TOUR team event in 30-plus years. How did your pairing come about in 2017?
CS: When I first moved over here, I basically knew no one other than my caddie, Sam (Pinfold). Sam had a room at Jonas’ place in Jacksonville (Florida). I stayed there a few weeks and got to know Jonas really well. He took me under his arm a little bit out there in Jacksonville and took me out to practice and play at TPC (Sawgrass). I ended up moving there, not because of Jonas, but all the people I knew there in Jacksonville, all nice people.
How does your strategy change playing a team event versus playing an individual event?
CS: Not too much changed. We tried to stay out of our hair as much as we could last year. In fact, if Jonas felt comfortable with a putt or if he wanted me in there, we just tried to stay out of each other’s way. That works out. I don’t think too much is different. Obviously, the rhythm is different with foursomes and with four-ball. Foursomes tends to take forever and four-ball is hitting every second shot. So, very different.
Is there one memory from last year’s win that is significant to you, one that has stayed with you longer than any of the others?
CS: That story about Jonas saying he wanted me to tap in for my first victory on the PGA TOUR when Kisner still had a chip to half with them, and then ended up holing it. Now it’s funny, but at the time it wasn’t.
In individual golf, the only person you may be letting down is yourself if you’re not playing well. What does it feel like playing with a partner, and is the pressure different knowing a teammate is relying on you?
CS: I don’t think so. Jonas and I have a really good relationship, and we know we’re humans and we make errors and mistakes. We don’t expect it, but we’re out there and we can only do what we can do. I think we both strive under pressure. We both play really well under pressure. Having that teammate there, like you’re saying, and not trying to let down another guy is different.
New Orleans is one of America’s great cities. Will you and Jonas do things this week away from the golf course such as eating out together, or is it all golf?
CS: It was Jonas’ birthday last night so we went out, had a nice dinner and a glass of wine or two. Other than that, we will probably hang out a little bit more this week just because we are partners, but everything will remain pretty much the same.
In less than 30 words, how would you sum up Jonas’ golf game?
CS: He just works his (butt) off, whether it be on the golf course or on the range when he’s practicing. Just a grinder.
You and Jonas both played in the RBC Heritage recently. But before that, you hadn’t played in the same tournament since the Genesis Open. Did you play a practice round together at Hilton Head or in any of the weeks leading up to this week, and how often have you hung out or spoken with each other?
CS: We did play a practice round together at Hilton Head. I didn’t realize that we hadn’t played in the same tournament. That’s weird. We try and get our one or two practice rounds in every week and then probably one or two dinners, but we communicate pretty often, whether it be a text after a round or a call after a round.
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