Shepparton News

Lights, Cam, action at Pines

SMITH SAYS HE’S IN TOP SHAPE AHEAD OF HIS AUSTRALIAN PGA CHAMPIONSH­IP TITLE DEFENCE THIS WEEK

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Falling just short at the World Cup of Golf, Australia’s Cameron Smith says his form is good enough to defend his Australian PGA Championsh­ip title starting on Thursday at Royal Pines.

Teaming with Marc Leishman, the Australian pair finished in a tie for second, three shots behind Belgians Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry at Melbourne’s Metropolit­an course.

Smith showed some sparkling form on the back nine, nailing a 6 m birdie putt on the 13th before following up with a rousing display on the par-five 14th when he holed out from a bunker.

The performanc­e was no surprise given Smith’s rich vein of form since the PGA Championsh­ip at Bellerive in August.

Since then the Queensland­er, 25, has had four top 10 finishes including back-to-back third places on the US PGA Tour and last week’s tie for 10th at the Australian Open in Sydney.

Ranked world No. 33, Smith said he felt he was playing better this year than leading into his first profession­al win on home soil.

‘‘I’m playing much better golf than what I was last year for sure,’’ Smith said.

‘‘It should be good to defend my title — I’m looking forward to the challenge and really looking to have heaps of family and friends there.’’

Smith said he planned a low-key start to the week after a rollercoas­ter World Cup, when the Australian­s carded the equal best final round of 65 against a disappoint­ing second round 76.

‘‘The putter’s feeling really good, so it would be nice if the greens are really nice next week,’’ Smith said.

‘‘I think the greens can tend to get a little bit grainy there, but the course is getting better every year.’’

Former US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy, who was on Sunday named as an assistant to Internatio­nal captain Ernie Els for next year’s Presidents Cup in Melbourne, is also playing on the Gold Coast while Leishman will also tee off.

World No. 21 Leishman felt he was also playing well, but said Smith’s putter was running hot.

‘‘Watching Cam, he should be feeling good,’’ Leishman said.

‘‘We’re opponents next week, but obviously still friends.

‘‘Being the competitiv­e people we are, we both want to win, so hopefully I can play good and outdo him — outdo everyone, not just him.’’

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