SYDNEY, Australia -- In spite of a flourishing season that saw him win on the PGA Tour, Cameron Smith needed a blistering talking to from his agent recently to get him back on track.
Smith is a key Australian Open drawcard after losing to Jordan Spieth in a playoff last year, and then combining with Sweden's Jonas Blixt to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in May. The 24-year-old Smith's feat in birdying the par-five 18th, the fourth playoff hole, to defeat Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner convinced Blixt that he had to travel to Sydney and play in the Australian Open for the first time.
"I think he [Blixt] felt obliged to come out here since I had won that playoff hole," Smith said on Wednesday.
"I probably would have done the same thing for him if he had won the playoff. He felt obliged to play in this as a reward to me. Now I want to show him around while he's here."
But there won't be any wagers between the two extremely close golfing friends regarding how they fare in the Open.
"Jonas isn't a betting man... and he doesn't pay his bets anyway."
Smith, who is based in Jacksonville, was in an effervescent mood after playing in the tournament pro-am on Wednesday, but he admitted that he had trouble focusing on his game after the Zurich victory.
Asked if he had 'lost his way' after that win, Smith replied: "Maybe a little bit mentally."
"I did put myself under a bit more pressure than I should have. You win, and you think: 'I can do this every week.' You can't really. And then trying to do it every week... well. You have to stick to your game-plan, go out and play golf, rather than trying to win. It was a little bit of a rollercoaster ride. I put that down to mental aspects rather than my golf game."
Smith's agent, Bud Martin, confronted him in Chicago during the FedEx playoffs in September.
"My agent sat me down and gave me a good talking to, which was probably well needed. And since then I have put 100 per cent into every shot, trying to get the job done."
What did his agent do?
"He gave me a boot up the bum. It was a talking to, I guess. I don't even know how to describe it. He just gave me a bit of a rev-up, and from then on I've played good. At the time, I found it hard to agree with him; but he was right."
Smith is a form player in the field, with recent excellent performances in Asia, but he's almost been ignored with all the pre-tournament attention on Spieth and Jason Day. Smith is quite content with that, explaining: "I don't like the spotlight. I try to stay away from it as much as I can. I try to do my own thing."
At least a share of the focus will definitely be on Smith on the opening day, as he is in the same group as Spieth. This time around, he just wants to avoid the Spieth playoff traumas of 2016.
"I had bit of a heavy heart for a few weeks after last year's tournament," Smith said. "It was obviously the best opportunity I have had to win the Australian Open.
"To get in the playoff, get so close, but don't win... well it's not a good feeling. But that just makes me even hungrier this year."