Australian PGA Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
Cameron Smith is one of best of the current crop of young Australian golfers so his inability to win on a regular basis on the PGA Tour remains a mystery, especially when you consider that he is about to attempt to become the first golfer in more than 100 years to win the Australian PGA Championship for a third successive year.
Smith’s solitary win in America came in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a team event in which he paired up with Jonas Blixt to triumph in 2017. But an individual success continues to elude him and he hasn’t had a vintage season, despite qualifying for the International team that took on the USA in the Presidents Cup in Melbourne. When he won in Australia 12 months ago he climbed to 28th in the world rankings but currently finds himself languishing in 52nd place. He is a far better player than that, and will aim to prove the point at the stunning Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast.
The 26-year-old says he is thrilled to be returning to his home state to compete against a world-class field, including former world no.1 Adam Scott. “I can’t wait to come back to the Gold Coast and play in front of a home crowd to try and win three Australian PGA Championships in a row. It would be the perfect way to wrap up my year,” Smith said.
The Queenslander is attempting to become the first player since Aussie golf pioneer Dan Soutar to win the Joe Kirkwood Cup – Australia’s oldest pro golf trophy – three times in a row. Scotland-born Soutar won the inaugural Australian PGA Championship in 1905, then went on to claim the 1906 and 1907 titles.
“I’m eager to finish the year on a high by emulating the feats of one of the game’s legends,” he said. “But it certainly won’t come easily. Every year the PGA Champs showcases our country’s incredibly talented crop of golfers, all who will be desperate to etch their names into the Joe Kirkwood Cup.”
Cameron Smith closing out his match in style. ????pic.twitter.com/vUnNSAh0Qo— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) December 15, 2019
PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman expects the tens of thousands attending this year’s tournament to get behind Smith’s history-making pursuit. “We are delighted Cameron has decided to return to our feature event. He’s a fan favourite who will have a lot of supporters cheering him on to become a triple winner of the Australian PGA Championship,” Kirkman said. “Cam is trying to do what some of the industry’s luminaries like Greg Norman, Kel Nagle and Robert Allenby were unable to do. A third consecutive victory at RACV Royal Pines Resort, one of Queensland’s finest golf courses, would put him in rarefied company.”
Adam Scott may have something to say about that. He produced some sparkling form towards the end of last PGA Tour season, and came close to winning several times without being able to finish off the job. Like Smith, Scott is looking forward to the challenge.
“I am really looking forward to playing in the Australian PGA Championship and ending my year at such a fun tournament,” said Scott. “I love coming home and playing in front of Aussie crowds and they don’t get much better than at the Australian PGA Championship. The fans really embrace all of the players and help us celebrate the end of the season. To be able to win another Joe Kirkwood Cup would be the perfect end to 2019.”
Scott has played in the Australian PGA Championship 13 times, recording seven top-10s, including his 2013 victory and 2014 runner-up finish in an epic seven-hole playoff.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said crowds would be delighted to welcome Scott home. “Adam is one of Queensland’s most well-liked sporting stars so we’re delighted he’s chosen to come play in front of his adoring home fans on the Gold Coast,” she said. "Even in a state like Queensland which is renowned for producing world-class golfing talent, Adam Scott stands tall among the very best and I’m sure his decision to play will inspire golf fans of all ages to get out to Royal Pines and take in the action first-hand. The Australian PGA Championship is one of the highlights on Tourism and Events Queensland’s It’s Live! In Queensland events calendar for 2019 – a platform that highlights Australia’s best events in Australia’s best destination.”
But the man they may all have to beat is Cameron Champ. The sensational young American has recently secured his second PGA Tour title and is one of the longest hitters in the game. “I can’t wait to head to the Gold Coast and finish the year playing against some of the world’s best,” Champ said. “I’m sure there will be lots of local hype after the Presidents Cup and I’ve heard great things about the golf course, as well as the fun atmosphere surrounding the event. I am really looking forward to trying to win the tournament.”
With the tournament taking place so close to Christmas, it is no surprise that most European golfers have chosen not to make the marathon trip Down Under. A notable exception is Scotland’s Calum Hill, who is coming off a decent week at the Mauritius Open and is looking to get some early Race to Dubai points in the bank. The 25-year-old won twice on the Challenge Tour in 2019 and arrives in Australia full of confidence.
It was won in 2011 and 2014 by Greg Chalmers, in 2012 by Daniel Popovic, in 2013 by Adam Scott, in 2015 by Nathan Holman, in 2016 by Harold Varner III, and in 2017 and 2018 by Cameron Smith.
Cameron Smith. Ready to make a bit of history
Cameron Champ. Will thrill the crowds
Adam Scott. Still a brilliant ball striker
Cameron Smith. Hugely underrated - perhaps even by himself
Cameron Champ. Could become a real superstar
Adam Scott. Another win is long overdue
Calum Hill. Exciting prospect
Ryan Fox. Hits the ball a mile
Marcus Fraser. Hits more fairways than just about anybody else
Jason Scrivener. Capable of some really low scores
Jack Senior. Challenge Tour graduate with high hopes
David Howell. Doesn’t play much these days but loves Australia
Stewart Cink. Still possesses a proper golf game
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