The most daring hairdo in world golf has taken Tokyo by storm and now Cameron Smith’s mullet has received an Olympic endorsement.
Smith and Marc Leishman will become our latest golf Olympians on Thursday morning when they tee it up in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf men’s competition, Leishman paired with local hero Hideki Matsuyama and Canadian Corey Conners from 9.41am AEST with Smith to follow at 11.14am alongside Norwegian Viktor Hovland and South Africa’s Garrick Higo at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
When golf made its return to the Olympics in 2016 at Rio de Janiero Scott Hend, Marcus Fraser, Minjee Lee and Su Oh represented Australia with pride, Fraser finishing tied for fifth and Lee tied for seventh.
As he reflected on his own experience five years ago, Hend said that there could not be two more deserving players to represent the men’s golf team than close mates Smith and Leishman.
The pair combined earlier this year to win the Zurich Classic on the PGA Tour and Hend believes that even in an individual strokeplay competition, that camaraderie will thrive in the Olympic environment.
“I couldn’t think of anyone better than Cam and ‘Leish’ to be there having a crack at it and wearing the green and gold,” said Hend from Ireland where he is playing the ISPS HANDA World Golf Invitational this week.
“Cam and Leish get on like a house on fire so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re egging each other on and they do really well just because of that.
“There’ll be a lot of team spirit amongst those guys and ‘Finchy’ (Australian golf captain Ian Baker-Finch) is great at that too, he’s a great guy to have in that position.”
Admitting to having mixed emotions about Smith’s latest alteration to his distinctive hairstyle – “I didn’t know whether to laugh or throw up!” – Hend has seen the mullet that now has ‘AUS’ carved into the side of Smith’s head develop from its formative stages.
“He’s a legend,” said Hend.
“We went around to his house for a barbecue a few months ago and he was starting to grow it, saying stuff like, ‘How good’s this!’ And then he started to shave the sides and I was like, Dear me.
“I called him Joe Dirt. He should be out west riding motorbikes and shooting kangaroos with that mullet.
“He’s a good lad.”
If team spirit is the secret weapon of the Aussie men it is pure form that gives Hend cause for optimism for a medal among our women when they compete next week.
Hannah Green won the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship while Minjee Lee will arrive in Tokyo as the game’s latest major champion following her victory at the Aumundi Evian Championship last week.
“If you look at current form, you’ve got to be thinking Minjee’s a pretty good chance for a medal,” added Hend.
“It’s probably a good thing that she gets a week off, gets a bit of a break between actually going to have to play and she can settle down a little bit after winning.”
Debate has raged over the merits of individual strokeplay being used as the competition format at the Olympics and while Hend is a proponent of a team event, he says that vying for one of three medals requires a different approach to that of week-to-week tournament play.
“The only way it feels different is that you know you’ve only got three spots to play for,” said Hend, who has his Australian Olympic jacket proudly framed and hung at home.
“How do you put that into your head? Do you go and play like a Saturday comp and go for everything? Because you know it’s only first, second and third; if you come fourth it doesn’t matter anyway.
“You’ve got to go for it but it was hard to think how to approach it when you got there. I just tried to go for broke and that obviously didn’t work.
“It’s something very special. As a golf pro I’m very fortunate to be able to represent Australia every week when I’m out playing on international golf tours but to do it under the Olympic banner is something that they can’t take away from ‘Frase’ and I.”
Olympic men’s golf tee times Thursday AEST
9.41am Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners
9.52am Ryan Fox, CT Pan, Anirban Lahiri
11.14am Cameron Smith, Viktor Hovland, Garrick Higgo