If 2022 has taught Cameron Smith anything it is that talent only takes you so far.
A golfer so preternaturally gifted can afford to skip steps on his way to the top; the ability to flick the switch when necessary a defining trait of elite athletes the world over.
But to transfer his status from good to great, Smith first had to get off the couch, cut back on the beers and get himself fit.
In a year of accolades and achievements, Smith on Tuesday was presented with the key to the City of Brisbane by Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner.
He is just the 52nd recipient, the first golfer and the first individual to be honoured in such a way since boxer Jeff Horn sensationally defeated Manny Pacquiao at Suncorp Stadium in 2017.
Ironically, it was the inability to come home last summer that convinced Smith that time invested in the “one per centers” would help to take his game forward.
As he continues to grapple with the fact that the Claret Jug that accompanies him at every meet and greet is actually his, the 29-year-old has unlocked the blueprint to turn talent into golf immortality.
“I just wanted to see how far I could push myself and what I could really do,” Smith said ahead of Thursday’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club.
“I didn’t really have much to do other than go fishing and drink a few beers with the boys.
“Obviously not being able to come home, I had a lot of spare time. It could have been one of those times where I just laid on the couch and not done anything but I made a really big effort to get in the gym and do all those little one per centers that were going to make me a better golfer.
“I didn’t really expect it to come together so quick, but I’m happy it did, and I’m really excited by what I can keep doing.
“I really want to keep pushing myself and really want to keep making myself a better golfer.”
The impact was instant.
He set a PGA TOUR scoring record in winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January that moved him inside the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.
Next was THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass and then topped off with a record low Sunday at St Andrews to become just the fifth Australian to win The Open Championship.
He added a LIV Golf title in just his second start on that circuit and arrived home last Thursday to a rock-star reception at Brisbane Airport.
That welcome will be dwarfed by the thousands of fans set to flood the fairways of Royal Queensland from Thursday as he waits for the reality of what he has achieved to finally sink in.
“I still can’t believe it’s here. I still can’t believe I won it,” Smith said as golf’s most famous piece of silverware sat just a foot or so in front of him.
“I didn’t realise how much joy and emotion that that trophy brings out of people. It’s insane. It’s like they’ve seen a ghost the first time they’ve seen it.
“It’s awesome to have it and I don’t want to give it back. I want to keep hanging onto it.”
Before he sets sight on his Claret Jug defence Smith has the opportunity to retake possession of the Joe Kirkwood Cup this week at Royal Queensland.
The course is very different to the one is father, Des, brought him to as a young kid some 21 years ago but one which holds many fond memories.
He was made an Honorary Member on Sunday – “I’ve paid my fees up until now” – and credits the club for his elevated position within world golf.
“I love the changes they’ve done around the golf club,” Smith added.
“The course is looking really good. This is as good as I’ve seen it. I probably haven’t been out here for five or six years, but it seems like the grass has started to mature a little bit, the greens aren’t so grainy and they’re starting to firm up really nice coming into the weekend.
“I’ve been a member here now for probably 10 or 15 years and the place is so good.
“The facilities here, for me growing up, I think definitely elevated my game. RQ’s got a lot to offer young kids, for sure.”
Young kids with big dreams, in particular.