HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Cameron Smith has put his bad swing at the 12th hole in the final round of the Masters last week behind him and is ready to continue a strong season at the RBC Heritage.
Smith was in contention much of the way at Augusta National and was in the final group alongside winner Scottie Scheffler on Sunday. But he put his tee-shot in the water in front of the challenging and usually fateful par-3, leading to a triple-bogey six that blunted any chance of catching Scheffler.
After a couple of days of rest — and no golf — Smith is anxious to get back to work this week at Harbour Town Golf Links.
“I don’t think I was down in the dumps,” he said Wednesday. “I was just frustrated. I feel as though I was one really good swing away from really contending and that’s just how golf is.”
Smith tied for third at the Masters, five shots behind Scheffler. It was another strong showing in a season full of them for Smith, who has won the Tournament of Champions last January and The Players Championship last month.
He’s up to fifth in the world rankings and believes he can climb higher as long as he stays true to his process. It has worked for him at Harbour Town in recent years. Half of his 20 career rounds have been in the 60s, including a opening-round 62 a year ago when he tied for ninth behind champion Stewart Cink.
“I think if you had asked me at the start of the year that I would have been here I probably would have been a little bit surprised,” Smith said. “But the last couple of months, I’ve felt really good with my game, I feel as though I’m playing the best golf of my life.”
Usually, several Masters contenders skip this week because of the mental and physical toll of playing Augusta National. Not this week.
While green jacket winner Scottie Scheffler and runner up Rory McIlroy are absent, the RBC Heritage features 14 of the next 21 golfers on last week’s leaderboard including fifth-place Collin Morikawa, eighth-place Justin Thomas and 12th-place Dustin Johnson.
“Seeing what Scottie’s doing over the past couple of months, it’s really cool to watch that, but I want to be there as well,” said Morikawa, a two-time major champion whose last of five career victories came at the British Open last summer.
Harbour Town’s tight fairways and small greens suit Morikawa’s game. “So we’re looking for that one little spark and this is a course I love the past couple years,” he said.
Morikawa and Thomas are the co-favorites to win the RBC Heritage at 13-1, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Smith is next at 14-1 with Patrick Cantlay at 16-1 and Johnson at 18-1.
After Stewart Cink’s ace at the 16th hole of the Masters, Tiger Woods referred to three-time RBC Heritage winner as “Kitchen.” What?
Cink, the defending champion, explained as a youth golfer in Alabama he partnered with Tim Kitchens at a couple of events and people were tickled at Kitchens and Cink together.
“Tiger thinks he started that,” said Cink, 48. “But he did not start that. I’ve been referred to as ‘Kitchen’ ever since I was a little kid.”
Cink, who also won here in 2000 and 2004, led wire-to-wire as he opened with consecutive 63s on the way to a four-stroke win.
Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson and Fred Couples will serve as assistant’s to Love at the upcoming matches at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte next September.
Asked what role former captain Tiger Woods might serve, Love said, “Any role he wants.”
That includes as an assistant captain, advisor or a player, Love said, after watching Woods’ compete at the Masters for four rounds on Augusta National’s hilly, demanding layout.
“I didn’t think he would ever play again and he proved us wrong. And then I didn’t think he could walk 72 holes at Augusta, because that’s one of our hardest walks, and then he proved us wrong again,” Love said.
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