DUBLIN, Ohio – The mullet has become one of golf’s most feared spectacles.
Cameron Smith, the Aussie lad who let his hair down in honor of his rugby league boys in Australia, has become an almost weekly threat on the PGA Tour.
This week he is at the Muirfield Village Golf Club for The Memorial.
And the Aussie is back.
The defending Players Championship winner and world No. 3 tops the standings again after rounds of 67-69 left him at 8 under on Friday. Smith, who held a share of the lead after 18 years, controls every aspect of his game, from his mental approach to every club in his bag.
He plays so well that he expects to be on the top page of the leaderboard.
Memorial: PGA Tour streaming on ESPN+
“I think my game is in a good position. There’s no reason I shouldn’t,” Smith said. “I’m playing one of the best golf courses of my life and I feel like I’m getting more consistent with the longer stuff. So I’m looking forward to whatever’s to come.
“I think mentally I’m in a really good position. I feel like I’m getting more and more regular week after week. I just try to hit the right shots every time. Even though I’m uncomfortable, I know what the right shot is, and I’m committed to trying to hit that shot and it’s just a really good place to be.
This is Smith’s last strong effort. He won the opening match of 2022 in record fashion at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Then the man who loves to fish brought back the whale otherwise known as The Players Championship for his fifth PGA Tour title, all coming since 2017.
He also finished tied for third at this year’s Masters and was in contention late before fading at the end to finish tied for 13e in the PGA Championship.
And Smith is the only player in Masters history to post all four rounds in the 60s, as he did by finishing second to Dustin Johnson in 2020.
A return shot at 7 under is Denny McCarthy, one of the best putters in the game, and KH Lee, who won earlier this year at AT&T Byron Nelson. McCarthy posted 68-69, Lee 67-70.
A great group is at 6 under, including Cameron Young (67-71), Davis Riley (67-71), Jhonattan Vegas (69-69), Luke List (67-71) and Billy Horschel (70-68).
Under 5, Rory McIlroy is looking for his first commemorative trophy to add to his four pieces of major championship gear and two of his FedEx Cup titles.
“I hit it quite often in the fairway,” McIlroy said. “As it gets firmer, I’m only thinking of bonuses on ball strikes, fairways and greens. If you can make it around here, you’ll have a chance.
“I expect by tomorrow he will be as firm as he was in those Monday/Tuesday practice rounds. He was surprisingly firm then. And I think that’s how it is. what they want to play here is to try to make it as firm and fast as possible. Looks like the weather forecast is going to allow that to happen.
What if he added Le Mémorial to his CV?
“I think it’s a special moment in anyone’s career to be able to walk up the hill and get that handshake (from Jack Nicklaus). I would love to win here,” he said. Won at Bay Hill at Arnold, but never got to get that handshake because Arnold passed away a few years before. It’s even more special when you’re able to win a tournament, whether it’s hosted by Jack or Arnold or one of the greats in the game.”
Muirfield Village will likely firm up over the weekend as the forecast calls for sun and heat, and let’s face it, a firm heading is what Nicklaus wants. If conditions get tough, Smith will be ready.
“I would love a firm, fast golf course,” he said. “I think growing up in Australia, Aussies love it. I don’t think it’s going to be too windy this weekend. So they can really let this course get nice and firm.
“I look forward to the challenge.”