ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. Cameron Smith ended the 2020-21 PGA Tour season determined to do something about the errant driving that kept him from having an even better performance a career year: 14th on the FedEx Cup points list, a victory with Australian countryman Marc Leishman in the Zurich Classic for his third Tour title and a combination of five top-10s in majors, World Golf Championships and Olympic golf.
What he found when reviewing videotape and other swing data was pretty simple in explaining why he was 122nd on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting only .592 of his fairways.
Just something in the set-up, said the Jacksonville resident.
While his driving accuracy in his first two Tour starts this season is about the same as last yeara bit less than 60 percentSmith is seeing progress and Thursdays first round of the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Club Seaside Course was a major step.
Smith missed only two fairways and only a balky putter kept him from posting a bogey-free round. As it is, a 6-under 64 might have been four shots off the lead held by Sebastian Muoz but with windy weather in the forecast for the course hard by the St. Simons Sound, Smith is pretty content.
It was a perfect day and we all knew it was out there, said Smith, who crammed six of his birdies in a 10-hole span from Nos. 6 to 15, all on putts of 13 feet or less.
Smith saved himself continually last season with a hot putter. He was 10th in the Tours strokes-gained putting index, first in average putts per round (1.68), second in three-putt avoidance and seventh in percentage of putts made from 10 feet and less.
Smith has tied for ninth in the CJ Cup and for 15th last week in the Hewlett-Packard Houston Open, so hes certainly hanging around leaderboards like last season, when he had eight top-10s and 14 top-25s.
But he was still miffed at being a bit off with his driver last week and is trying to stay patient with the process. He saw some nice rewards on Thursday.
Last week wasnt that great, to be honest, but I felt like it was getting better, Smith said. I just felt a little bit uncomfortable and today I felt more comfortable. It was a nice day today. It will be interesting to see what happens [on Friday] when the wind gets up.
Australians historically perform well under windy conditions, giving many of the tracks they grow up playing. So Smith said he will be in his element.
I love the wind but I just really want to put my driver to the test and see what happens, he said.
Smith said he hasnt gotten everything completely sorted out with his driver. but he didnt have many days last year where he hit 12 fairways so hes trying not to be picky.
Id like to think by now Id have something figure out, he said. Ive been playing golf pretty much my whole life. I think I know what works and I just have to get back to that. The changes are never that much. Its just getting back to what you know works. It was just a little set-up thing and aiming a touch too far left. Over time, it went too far left.
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