PGA triumph adds to Smith’s year for the ages

PGA triumph adds to Smith’s year for the ages

Cameron Smith’s stellar 2022 is entering the debate as one of the great calendar year runs by any Australian golfer in history.

The Sunday roars for his three-stroke victory at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland was also acclaim for his fifth win across the globe this year.

No pro golfer in the world has sustained the excellence for longer in 2022; from his opening round 65 at The Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in early January to Sunday’s 68 in Brisbane.

He won in Hawaii with a record 34-under-par. Ten months later, he’s still grabbing birdies with his pure putting stroke and outrageously good wedge play.

His nerveless pitch from a wet lie, over a scraggly tree, beyond a bank and avoiding the treacherous multi-tiered slopes of the 12th green was the turning point of the day after returning from the second lightning delay at Royal Queensland.

It broke a three-way deadlock when he nailed the short birdie putt it gave him on the short par-4 hole. No one was going to catch him from there.

The hardy fans who saw it through for the seven hours it took to play his final round, after two delays for lightning, were richly rewarded.

You go to live sport to watch champions play the shots of champions when the heat is on.

This year, Smith has also celebrated victories at THE PLAYERS Championship, often called the fifth major, the glorious Open Championship triumph when he jumped by Rory McIlroy at St Andrews, and LIV Chicago.

It’s been a brilliant stretch. Even Smith seemed a little in awe of it during his celebration speech on the 18th green when he thanked his team.

“Who would have thought 10 months ago we’d have five wins,” Smith said.

What do we compare it with?

Greg Norman’s 1986. The golden streak of Jason Day in 2015. Adam Scott’s green jacket parade in 2013. Karrie Webb’s awesome 2000 and Peter Thomson’s seven-win 1965 were all years of winning famously.

Norman won eight times in ‘86 when he rose to world No. 1 for the first time and also secured his first Open victory at Turnberry. That year, he also won two PGA TOUR events and the European Open before heading home to win four times during the Australian summer of golf.

Day rode a huge wave of form and confidence to world No.1 in 2015. He won five times on the PGA TOUR that year, including his US PGA Championship success.

Scott’s 2013 Masters breakthrough is enough to rate it a historic year but he parlayed that energy into winning The Barclays in the FedEx Cup play-offs. Like Smith at RQ, he gave local fans their chance to share in the party too by winning the Australian PGA, the Aussie Masters and the World Cup of Golf with Day.

If you are looking for globetrotting dominance, you can’t go past Webb’s extraordinary 2000.

She won two majors in the US by wide margins and three further LPGA events, including the co-sanctioned Australian Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast.

A win in Japan, the Women’s Australian Open and a share in a World Cup of Golf win made it her benchmark year.

For Smith, the quest for success in 2022 isn’t quenched. He was rapt to win his third Australian PGA with family and his well-fuelled golf mates from tiny Wantima Country Club in the gallery.

A senior golf club official from Brisbane watched Smith’s gracious acceptance speech after a week of playing the people’s champion to perfection.

“It’s not hard to cheer an authentic champion. That’s why all these people are here,” he said.

Smith has made it clear that this week’s Australian Open at Victoria and Kingston Heath is his main mission of the summer.

If one of his best weeks is still to come, it will be some finale to a brilliant year.