In sport as in life, timing is everything.
So what a time for Cameron Smith to end a seven-month winless streak at the LIV Golf London event earlier this month – just days ahead of his Open Championship defence.
The Australian was in fine form at the Centurion Club in the capital, posting a score of -15 through 54 holes to land the victory by one shot from Patrick Reed and fellow countryman Marc Leishman.
Aside from his low-key performances on the LIV Golf tour, Smith’s form in the majors has been improving in 2023 – T9 at the PGA Championship was followed by solo fourth at the US Open.
But it’s that win in London that has seen the 29-year-old backed considerably in the golf betting market for the Open Championship – he’s in from 20/1 to 16/1 with the leading bookmakers to defend the title he won so impressively 12 months ago.
Others, including Rory McIlroy (15/2), Scottie Scheffler (8/1) and Jon Rahm (9/1), are more fancied in The Open odds than Smith, but few can match the Australian’s links golf credentials.
Thank you to all involved in LIV Golf London! Congrats to Cameron Smith and @4AcesGC_ 🏆
— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) July 10, 2023
He became the first player in history to post two rounds of 64 or lower in an Open Championship, tying Henrik Stenson’s record low score of -20 in his win on the Old Course at St Andrews in 2022.
Smith has shown his aptitude for breezy, coastal conditions before too. He won both of the PGA TOUR’s events in Hawaii – the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open – where keeping your ball under control in a fierce wind and on supremely-fast greens are paramount. Two wins in the Australian PGA Championship also reveal his exceptional ground game.
He has also proven his ability to beat the best in the business at the 2022 PLAYERS Championship, so there really are few weaknesses in Smith’s game – and any doubts about his form were put to bed in London.
And so he will head to the Royal Liverpool club for the 2023 Open Championship with a fantastic chance of successfully defending the Claret Jug.
Under the Radar
For the most part, those players that joined LIV Golf as part of the sport’s volcanic civil war have been cast aside in the wilderness. As well compensated as they are financially – Smith banked more than £3 million for winning in London – the breakaway tour still doesn’t have a global TV deal and its events still aren’t recognised by the Official World Golf Rankings.
But Brooks Koepka showed at the 2023 PGA Championship that LIV players can still compete at the highest level, so the form of Reed and Leishman in London will be of interest to punters seeking an outsider or two to back for The Open.
Brooks Koepka makes history at the PGA Championship 🏆#PGAChamp
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) May 22, 2023
Reed has finished inside the top 20 in three of his last seven Open Championship starts, while victories at the Tournament of Champions and Farmers Insurance Open confirm his credentials as a wind-affected golfer of some note.
Leishman too has come close at The Open, losing in a play-off in the 2015 edition to Zach Johnson. The Aussie is also a former Farmers Insurance Open champion – a notoriously breezy event held in San Diego.
For two players with such fine pedigree in these conditions to find form in the days ahead of the Open Championship is noteworthy, to say the least. As we say, timing really is everything in sport.