Cameron Smith, the return of the hero

Cameron Smith Jasen Vinlove / PANORAMIC

The mullet-cut Aussie is relishing a warm – long-awaited – return to Australia, where his appearance on the LIV series may not have shaken his popularity.

Returning home after three years interrupted by COVID, British Open champion Cameron Smith received the keys to the city of his native Brisbane on Tuesday, becoming the first golfer among 52 to receive the honour.

“I thought it was for important people, not golfers. »

Cameron Smith, after receiving the keys to the city of Brisbane

Even in my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d get the keys to the citythe mullet-cut 29-year-old told reporters. “I thought it was for important people, not golfers.»

Australia’s strict COVID-19 quarantine and border controls were in place until the end of 2021, delaying Smith and other top local golfers from returning home early.

Although Smith has battled homesickness, the time spent has proven a blessing in disguise as he spends his off-season in the United States getting fit in the gym ahead of the most successful year yet. of his career in 2022.

Like former world number one Adam Scott, who lifted the Masters trophy after becoming Australia’s first major winner in 2013, Smith brought the Claret Jug back with him.

“It was pretty cool to see”

Smith’s career had yet to take off when he joined a line “about one K (kilometer) longto get an autograph from Scott ahead of the 2013 Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast. “He had the green jacket at Royal Pines,said Smith.

Nine years later, the pair will play the same tournament at Royal Queensland on Thursday, with Smith, who won back-to-back titles in 2017-18, now the main title. Scott, the 2013 and 2019 winner, will also be in contention for a third title at the event.

Smith said he was overwhelmed with joy and emotion from his compatriots when he showed off the Claret Jug, posing for ‘selfies’ with fans with the trophy at Brisbane Airport just after landing . “It’s crazy. It’s like they saw a ghost for the first time “, he added. “I don’t want to return it. I want to keep hanging on to it.»

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Although the reception from fans was warm, Smith’s decision to sign with LIV for $150 million a few months ago was criticized by some Australian media pundits and former players. Like other LIV players, Smith is now banned from playing the major world tours of the US PGA and European DP.

The Australian Tour, however, hosted Smith to play local events. And Australia will host a LIV event next April in Adelaide, with the South Australian state government supporting the series.

Smith, who is close friends with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, said he would like another event in Queensland. “All over Australia right now I think it’s going to be well received“, did he declare. “The reception from LIV golf has been really positive so I can’t wait to be in Adelaide.»

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