Sony Open in Hawaii: Concentration keyed Cameron Smith’s comeback
There is one rule in journalism a good reporter tries to avoid breaking at all costs and that is a weather lead.
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There is one rule in journalism a good reporter tries to avoid breaking at all costs and that is a weather lead. It is considered a lazy approach to your story, as if you’ve come up with the greatest weather lead ever written. You haven’t. Think of something else.
Another is the use of the word irony. Or misuse, which is often the case. The Associated Press considers irony to be: Fire station burns down.
And that’s pretty much it. But when you stop and think a moment about Cameron Smith’s unlikely playoff win in the dreariest Sony Open in Hawaii ever, weather and irony somehow are forever linked: Australian wins in steady drizzle.
For four rounds he and his fellow PGA Tour members did their best to stay dry in tradewind showers gone awry. This is the kind of wintry weather the good folks of Hawaii deal with from time to time that isn’t in any travel brochure. Have you ever wondered why it’s so green around here? It rains. A lot sometimes. And those living their days in the fiery inferno of too many parts of Australia would borrow it yesterday if given a chance.
Because it’s burning Down Under. Smith told media members all about it last week as he and fellow Australian touring pros Marc Leishman and Matt Jones did their part to raise money and awareness for how bad it is back home for them and their families. When it isn’t happening in your own backyard, it’s too easy to push it aside and try to think about something else.
Smith couldn’t do that. His Uncle Warren lost just about everything in the blazes. Smith told folks all about it upon his arrival the Sunday before the Sony. When Smith left to come play here, his uncle was in his home. Complaining about the weather, and rain mind you, well, that would border on blasphemy given the circumstances.
“I just hope it brings a little bit of joy to some people who are going through some tough times,” Smith said after earning $1.18 million for his first individual win on tour. “It was tough to concentrate. You were concentrating on other things. Keeping dry for one. Keeping your clubs dry. It was a tough day mentally. But we got through it.”
Smith beat Brendan Steele in a one-hole playoff with darkness settling in all around. Much like Justin Thomas did nine days ago after winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Smith posed with his own trophy in the twilight, thinking about his uncle, who had lost everything in one of many brush fires.
“He was still there when I left,” Smith said about a half-hour after winning.
“Yeah, bit of a tough time for my uncle. He went back down there (to his home) Monday or Tuesday. Bit of a long drive. What he found was quite devastating. Kind of saw the photos. And yeah, the only thing he had left was a little shed that him and his son built a few months back. Yeah, we’re a tight-knit family and kind of hit everyone hard. It’s good to do something good, and hopefully put a smile on their face.”
The 26-year-old, who also took inspiration from playing on the International team a month ago in the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, was subdued himself. It was his second PGA Tour win. The first was in 2017 at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. He teamed with Jonas Blixt in that victory. This was the first time to hoist a trophy alone and it felt good.
Still, he kept his excitement muted. He didn’t run around the green with his club held high. Rather, he tapped it in for par, shook hands with Steele, who was the foil in this play, and then hugged his caddie. Both were tired from the experience of playing 73 holes in the wind and the rain. Walking off the 19th, it was only a steady drizzle.
Aussie wins on dreary day. Somehow, that’s fitting.