Home » PGA Championship 2024: In-form Cam Smith ready for Valhalla challenge – Australian Golf Digest

PGA Championship 2024: In-form Cam Smith ready for Valhalla challenge – Australian Golf Digest

[PHOTO: Getty Images]

Cameron Smith is predicting a long, wet week upon his first trip to Valhalla Golf Club, but hot form on a globe-trotting schedule recently has prepared the major winner for anything the PGA Championship can throw at him.

The PGA Championship returns to Valhalla, the course in Louisville, Kentucky, that hosted Rory McIlroy’s victory in 2014, Tiger Woods’ epic battle with Bob May in 2000 and Mark Brooks’ triumph in 1996 in addition to the 2008 Ryder Cup.

Severe weather, including thunderstorms and heavy rain, have already disrupted the Tuesday and Wednesday practice rounds and cancelled Tuesday player interviews. There’s also rain forecast for the second round and scattered thunderstorms for the third round.

Smith, the 150th Open champion at St Andrews two years ago, has been trying to get his first glimpses of the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout in horse-racing country having managed to play the front nine this week. He’s predicting unfinished tournament rounds some days.

“We’ve got a little weather here today, so I’ll see as much of the course as I can today,” Smith said. “The course is in great shape and it’s tough. It’s probably going to be a long week, if you look at the forecast. I think it’s going to be a few early mornings. So, I’ll probably keep [practising and training] it a little bit lighter at the start of the week, saving some energy.”

Smith and Lucas Herbert play a practice round at Valhalla.

The Queenslander is prepared though, having enjoyed solid results so far this year on LIV Golf’s international schedule. The 30-year-old has had two runner-up results, including his most recent start at LIV Singapore and in Hong Kong, as well as two other top 15 finishes. He’s also fresh off a T-6 at last month’s Masters where his driving and iron play were stellar, with only a misbehaving putter holding him back.

“My game feels great, I feel like I’ve been improving this whole year, basically,” he said. “I’m pumped and ready for this week. Knowing the course is going to be important. I haven’t been around here yet so there’ll be a ton of study over the next couple of days and and then just a ton of rest as well.”

Smith has been working hard on his driver with long-time coach Grant Field, focusing on a bigger turn and a shorter arm action aimed at achieving a more compact backswing. The increased accuracy paid dividends at Augusta National, but he’ll need it again at the 7,600-yard Valhalla course. Only one of the par 4s has championship tees shorter than 360 yards. Officials, though, have hinted they may move the tees up on the 372-yard fifth to allow for a 305-yard carry to the green.

Regarded as the bomber’s major, Smith has begun to get a handle on the style of power golf required at the PGA. Last year at Oak Hill Country Club in New York, the former world No.2 recorded his career-best result at the PGA, a tie for ninth. That locked up career top-10s at all four majors, indicating Smith’s game is maturing into a more well-rounded attack.

“The rough doesn’t seem that long but it’s just really dense so it’s quite patchy,” Smith said. “It’s hard to say whether it’s a good or a bad thing. Coming [into the greens] from the fairways will be far easier, but I think the course is gonna soften up a lot, and it’ll probably be easier to hit those fairways, and easier to hit the greens. It’ll just be a long week.”

Smith isn’t the only Australian chasing an elusive second major victory. Former world No.1s Jason Day, who won this major at Whistling Straits in 2015, and Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, are also in the field.

Cameron Davis joins the pack a year after the Sydneysider tied for fourth at the PGA, six shots behind the winner, Brooks Koepka. West Australian Min Woo Lee will also tee up, having registered a T-2 on the PGA Tour this year and a top-25 at the Masters. Lucas Herbert, who’s joined Smith on LIV Golf, was also extended a special exemption by the PGA of America given his world ranking had dipped due to LIV not receiving world-ranking points.