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The list of favourites for this year’s Masters is long and strong. A good case could be made for any of the players in the top-10 on the Official World Golf Ranking and for several star names currently outside that top-10. But my money - just like the GM tipster - has gone on Australia’s Cameron Smith and this is why.
He’s on tremendous form
The Australian has climbed to a career high of sixth on the Official World Golf Ranking following his impressive win in The Players Championship. In the final round at TPC Sawgrass, Smith fired in an incredible 10 birdies, including four to start both the front and back nines, en-route to a closing 66.
And he’s been playing well in the relatively few other events he’s teed it up in through the first months of 2022. He won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii (setting a new PGA scoring record in the process,) and finished tied fourth in Saudi Arabia.
He’s well rested
The fact he’s only played five tournaments so far this year, and none since his win at TPC Sawgrass, means he’s arrived in Augusta well rested: A fact he has already noted speaking to the press. At 28, he’s young enough to have plenty of energy but, having taken three weeks off, he’ll be raring to go.
Related: Cameron Smith what's in the bag
He has a great record at Augusta
It’s his fifth start in The Masters and he has three top-10 finishes to his name. He was tied for second back in 2020 when he became the first player in Masters history to fire four rounds in the 60s.
Related: Who Is Cameron Smith's Caddie?
With four Masters behind him now, he has the experience (and results) to know how to play the course and he knows he has the game to win.
Boy, can he putt!
And a key to that game is his exceptional putting. In his victory at The Players, Smith’s silky putting touch was to the fore and, at times, it looked like he simply couldn’t miss.
He currently ranks third on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting and his putting stats in the last few Masters have been impressive – top-10 in number of putts twice, including one second in that category. Controlling the speed on long putts and holing those clutch putts is often what separates the winner from the field at Augusta and Smith has the ability to do just that.
And his approach play is pretty good too
Approach play is another important piece of the puzzle at Augusta. The greens are so challenging and pin positions so precarious that shots just off target can fall away from the hole. Precision with the scoring clubs is always important.
Last season, Smith was best on the PGA Tour on approaches from 100-125 yards and eighth from 125-150 yards. This season, he’s doing well again from 100-125 yards - ranked seventh.
Smith’s short game is extremely tight and tidy, he’s ranked inside the top-40 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained around the greens in five of the last six seasons. He has a great chipping action and is excellent from tight lies like you often see around the surfaces at Augusta.
His attitude and determination
On the final hole at Sawgrass, Smith misjudged his lay-up from the trees and found the water. A lesser player could have panicked and lost the tournament from there but Smith didn’t look fazed. He calmly took his drop and got up and down for the five that would prove good enough to give him a one-stroke victory.
He's a supremely level-headed and patient player who has that natural ability to put bad shots behind him and focus on limiting any damage. That’s crucial around Augusta: Players must know when to attack and when to play sensibly, Smith seems to have an innate ability to choose the right shots at the right time. And if he makes an error, he gets himself back in play and starts again. In short - he's gritty.
He's got the look
I’m trying to think of the last Masters winner to own a moustache. I think it might have been Craig Stadler back in 1982. It’s about time for another one surely. And to have a winner sporting the moustache/mullet combination would be something completely new at Augusta… I think it’s meant to be.
This year’s Masters is wide open with strong support for a selection of hugely talented young players (plus for a few veterans) but for the reasons above, and just because he’s a real Aussie “battler” and a down to earth and decent chap – I’m backing Cam Smith to don a Green Jacket on Sunday evening.
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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