Friday, January 28, 2022

Cameron Smith joins historically great list with wins at both Hawaii events on PGA Tour

Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Justin Thomas, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and … Cameron Smith? It’s true. Smith joined those five golfers as the only players to win both the Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open, which, since 1999, has made up the PGA Tour’s two-stop Hawaii swing to start every year.

He did it in historic fashion by resetting the PGA Tour’s score to par record at 34 under and holding off the No. 1 player in the world, Jon Rahm, by one stroke this weekend to win the Tournament of Champions to go with his 2020 Sony Open win. And he did it on a golf course that doesn’t, at least at first glance, necessarily fit his specific set of skills.

Rick Gehman, Kyle Porter, Greg DuCharme and Mark Immelman react to Cameron Smith’s victory at the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Smith finished tied for 85th in driving distance on the PGA Tour last season, and the Plantation Course at Kapalua is a massive ballpark. However, the 7,600-yard number can be a bit deceiving as several holes have loads of rollout, and the course can turn into a bit of an Augusta National facsimile with uneven lies and very distinctive short shots, which Smith does excel at. In retrospect, Smith’s success at Augusta (top 10 in three of his last four) was a bit of foreshadowing for how well he played last week.

Also, he finished third in driving distance on the week — behind Bryson DeChambeau and Garrick Higgo — so perhaps he’s not as short as his numbers would suggest. Regardless, here’s a look at the list of players he joined with the Hawaii double (Smith got his Sony Open victory in a playoff over Brendan Steele).

Ernie Els

2003, 2004

2003

19

4

Jim Furyk

1996

2001

17

1

Vijay Singh

2005

2007

34

3

Zach Johnson

2009

2014

12

2

Justin Thomas

2017

2017, 2020

14

1

Cameron Smith

2020

2022

4

Smith has to be excited about tossing his name on a list that includes five major winners who have combined for 11 major championships and nearly 100 PGA Tour wins. And while past results don’t guarantee future success, there’s a confidence that comes from wins in fields like the Tournament of Champions produces year after year.

Interestingly, the win at Kapalua was also just Smith’s second win in an individual PGA Tour event. His other two wins came at the Zurich Classic, which is a team event and which got him into this year’s Tournament of Champions after he and fellow Australian Marc Leishman won in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

Smith was asked about his Australian colleagues on Sunday and why they thrive at the Hawaii events. Though Leishman did not contend this year, third-place finisher Matt Jones made noise late and nearly also caught Rahm. Additionally, six of the last 19 Tournaments of Champions have been won by Australians (Stuart Appleby three times, and Geoff Ogilvy twice), a list that now includes Smith.

“I think there’s a lot that reminds us of home,” Smith said. “Obviously the mountains. The grass we play off is very similar to where I grew up, maybe not a couple of other guys. But I think Aussies play well when we’re relaxed, and we’re all relaxed here in Hawaii. Everyone is.”

Regardless of why he played so well, Smith is now part of two pretty impressive groups of players. At 28 with much of his career still in front of him, there’s no reason he can’t go on to replicate what they’ve done by winning Kapalua again or perhaps winning a major championship at some point over the next several years.

Smith will tee it up at the Sony Open next week to try and join Els and Thomas as the only players to win both Hawaii events in the same year.

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