Cameron Smith brings confidence to Augusta as he eyes up a first Major

The Australian with the distinctive mullet has the game and the attitude to succeed at Augusta

For all of the eyes and ears looking and listening out for El Tigre, as if he were the only player in the field, the upshot has been that others with grand designs on a Green Jacket have been able to go about their business in as relaxed a manner as possible.

Nobody more so than Cameron Smith. He's the world number six and coming into the Masters off the back of a win in The Players – his second of the season, to go hand-in-hand with the Sentry Tournament of Champions – and the man with the distinctive mullet hairstyle is as horizontal as they come on tour.

The mullet, remember, was a product of the early days of the pandemic and a series of side bets with friends which culminated in a hair clippers being produced: “We all just thought it was funny and I’ve just kind of rolled with it. I’d rather people talk about my golf game than my hair.”

Truth is, people are talking about the Australian's golf game to the extent that he is considered one of the favourites. After all, he is a player who has shot four successive rounds in the 60s (in finishing runner-up to Dustin Johnson in 2020) and he has three top-10s in his last four appearances.


Not only that, but his form – with those wins in Sawgrass and Hawaii – make him arguably the hottest player on tour this year apart from Scottie Scheffler.

Why has Smith done so well in the Masters? Typical Aussie, not shy about coming forward, he responded: “I think it’s just my creativity. I feel like I play my best golf when I’m creative. And, yeah, this course has so many, you know, slopes and stuff, you can work it off the greens firm and fast. And, yeah, I just love being creative.

“I’m not afraid to hit different shots around here. I think it can be, you know, very hard to hit the shot that you want to hit because you know if it doesn’t come off, you could be in some pretty deep trouble. I’m not afraid to do that. I want to hit the right shot, and I want to get it close.”

In fact, Smith attributed his comfort level on the greens to growing up playing the Sandbelt and other courses growing up: “I think growing up in Australia, we are quite fortunate to play those Sandbelt courses quite often. Reminds me a lot of Melbourne. You hit a lot of putts from inside 15 feet where you’re aiming four and five feet outside the hole.

“It’s kind of nice to have that in the back pocket, I guess, but for me it’s always just been about keeping the tempo off the putter head. I feel at times these greens can get quite fast so you can get quite tentative. Just keeping the tempo up and making sure the ball is hitting the back of the hole and just hitting good putts.”

Although not a Major championship, Smith’s win at The Players (and he hasn’t played competitively in the three weeks since then) affirmed his appetite for the big time. A step closer possibly to getting his hands on one of those Majors, so? “I think my game is already there. The Players was a nice box to tick. But I feel as though I can compete with anyone in any given week.”

While Smith was one of those players to quickly get to grips with Augusta National and its challenges, Séamus Power – who arrived on Sunday and took in nine holes of practice in the company of Billy Horschel – remarked of how the course was "so far beyond expectations, I just can't wait to play".

Power, who has attended the Masters as a spectator half-a-dozen times, admitted it was different inside the ropes and got further practice in with fellow Irish players Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry on Monday.

“I think the secret is going to be around the greens, that’s from what I’ve seen so far. When you are out of position, where to hit it to have a chance of getting up and down. It’s going to be a challenge.

“There’s going to be pin positions I have never seen before and [weather] conditions are going to change a lot as the week goes on. There’s going to be a lot of adjusting on the fly and talking it out with Simon [Keelan, his caddie] and see the best we can do . . . I am trying to learn as I go.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times