When looking back at the wild world of golf in 2022, you will be hard pressed to tell the tale without Cameron Smith. Adding to what has already been a career-defining year both on and off the golf course, Smith claimed the 2022 Australian PGA Championship -- the third of his career -- at Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane, Australia.
Playing in his home country's PGA Championship for the first time in three years, the world No. 3 was able overcome weather, nerves and his fellow countrymen en route to his fifth win of the year. Getting the better of Jason Scrivener and Japan's Ryo Hisatsune, Smith finished with a 72-hole total of 14-under 270 to win by three shots.
"It's awesome, mate," Smith said. "I really didn't think I had it in me this week me to be honest. The start of the week was a little bit scratchy. The game just got better and better as the week went on other than the front nine today."
Smith's game has gotten "better and better" not only throughout this week but throughout this year as a whole. Entering 2022 with three worldwide victories to his name and only one of which resided on the PGA Tour, the Australian shattered what many believed his ceiling to be and continues to do so.
A duel with Jon Rahm kicked off Smith's 2022 at the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua. Needing to set the PGA Tour scoring record, a scorching Smith reached 34 under for the week to eek by the then-world No. 1 by a single stroke. Finishing atop a limited field of only 38 competitors, it really wasn't until the spring when the conversation around Smith began to move from "He's a pretty good player" to "He's one of the best in the world."
A weather-riddled Players Championship saw many of the world's finest curl up as a brutal system rolled through the Jacksonville area the week of the "fifth major." With a bit of tee time luck on his side at the onset of the tournament, Smith converted this golden opportunity into a golden moment with 10 birdies in the final round at TPC Sawgrass.
Highlighted by his wedge shot on the famed island green par-3 17th, Smith's bold action on the 71st hole of the championship gave him his biggest victory to date. Similar words would be uttered just four months later when a comeback for the ages transpired at the oldest major championship in the game.
Five birdies in a row and a back-nine 30 saw Smith leapfrog crowd-favorite Rory McIlroy the final day of the 150th Open. Taking on water throughout the third round, Smith reset on Sunday and leaned on his trusty putter for his last stroll around the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Boasting 25 one putts on the week, it was an unlikely up-and-down from behind the road hole bunker on the 71st hole that secured Smith's first major championship and the title "Champion Golfer of the Year." Celebrations, beers from the Claret Jug and praise ensued, but not before an eyebrow-raising moment occurred at his winner's press conference.
"I just won the British Open, and you're asking about that? I think that's pretty not that good," said Smith when asked about a potential move to LIV Golf.
With rumors swirling, intensifying and seemingly coming to life in real time, Smith was again bombarded with questions ahead of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Brushing off the interrogation in a way only a man with a mullet can, the 29-year-old ultimately chose to join the PGA Tour rival after completion of the Tour Championship.
"It felt like I didn't sleep for a few months," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I was constantly thinking, 'what will other people think?' That was a really big factor for me. I feel like I do most things by the book and to be one to step away ... was really tough for me."
Smith's decision paid dividends almost immediately. Falling one stroke short of a playoff in his debut at LIV Golf Boston, Smith made amends two weeks later with a victory at LIV Golf Chicago. Rounding out his inaugural LIV campaign with a 7-under 65 at Trump National Doral, Smith single-handedly carried his team Punch GC to within one of the LIV Golf Team Championship.
Fast forward to present day, and Smith should have no issues sleeping after his win at the 2022 Australian PGA Championship. Adding to what was already a memorable year, yet in the same sense equally bizarre, Smith has now captured five victories in five different time zones on three different continents on three different tours.
While McIlroy will head into the new year as world No. 1 and winner of the season-long races on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, it may actually be Smith who was the most eye-catching, head-scratching, thought-provoking player of 2022.
Winner of two of the biggest prizes in golf, the subject of controversy and again a champion in his home country, Smith will continue to saunter on. While the path may be one less traveled moving forward, it is a path no less, and one which helped shape Smith's world class year.