In the third in our series sharing insights from the PGA Professionals guiding the Aussies playing this week’s US PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, Grant Field updates us on the state of Cameron Smith’s game and why his mentality is so well suited to playing well in the majors.
Life in general is all a bit different at the moment but for Cam, a Major week is not all that much different from any other tournament week.
And that’s the way we want it. It shouldn’t vary dependent on the event that he’s playing.
If there is a difference at all it might be that we get to the course perhaps a day earlier than we otherwise would to try and get some more time out on course but that is not the case this week.
Our stance is to try to make it as normal as possible given the circumstances. You do understand that it’s a bigger event – you’re not trying to get away from that fact – but the actual preparation is exactly the same.
I’m sure Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy doesn’t go into a grand final demanding more of his players than he would every other week of the season.
If we do what we know works then we’re more likely to get the outcome that we’re looking for.
No question that being there as a coach is more beneficial than watching on from the other side of the world but this is what we’re faced with at the moment so we’re trying to do our best.
When you’re at the tournament you’re viewing not only what the shot’s doing but his body language, what’s going on with the group and the conditions.
The biggest thing for us as a team right now is communication and we’ve got that happening.
During the early part of lockdown the communication perhaps wasn’t as clear as it could have been but we have established more of a routine now.
I’ll speak to Cam on a Monday night his time as a debrief from the week before and then we’ll do a range session on Tuesday. His caddie Sam Pinfold will have the camera while Cam’s on the range, Cam will have his headphones on and we’ll talk through the swing.
Sam will also send swings while we’re working and just make sure that we’re on top of what we’re trying to be on top of. If there’s anything else that needs to be seen to then we’ll do that and if he needs anything else during the week then obviously I’m here if he needs me.
Getting to the tournament on Monday you’ve got three days of preparation so it’s the same preparation, the same understanding.
You will spend some time looking at how the ball is reacting around the greens and in the bunkers but tee-to-green, most of it is in front of you.
I’d like to be able to say that there’s a magic formula but there’s not.
Cam is really good at not wasting energy. He does his work and he’s done. He’s not hanging around at the golf course or trying to arrange practice rounds with certain guys.
Cam is good at conserving his energy so that he’s still as fresh as he can be at the back-end of the week. That’s hugely important.
It’s not about doing more these weeks; it’s about doing the right amount and not wasting energy because there is a lot of other noise that can eat into your time at a Major.
As coach you can do a little bit of research on the golf course but it’s not the same as being there. The good part is that Sam and Cam know what they’re doing. I’ll have my own thoughts and if I feel like there’s something I can add I’ll always get on the phone but if it’s an uneducated guess I’m not going to throw it out there.
If you’ve got a good caddie that you trust and the caddie has done a lot of research getting all the numbers, if he can tell the player where to hit it then that’s all some players need.
There are others who have people who research more about where most birdies are made from certain holes and past trends but Cam is not one of those players.
It depends on what time he tees off but I’ll try and follow Cam’s rounds as much as I can but I’m also mindful that I need to sleep.
Weeks like this don’t help my sleep patterns, that’s for sure. I do tend to wake up and check my phone during the night to see how the guys are going.
I always go through every round post-round with Shot Tracker. It gives you a little bit of an idea of what the players are doing and then have the conversation about what happened on certain shots.
You might see trends on certain shaped holes and because you’ve got an idea about their patterns and what their tendencies are you can get a head start on trying to find a solution.
As for Cam’s game right now, it’s definitely getting better. As the week went on in Memphis last week he felt better and definitely feels like he’s heading in the right direction.
I spoke to Sam after the second round about a couple of the tee shots and a lot of it was around certain shaped tee shots. We talked a little bit about strategy and it looks like they were better the last two rounds.
He spoke to his sports psychologist Jonah Oliver and we spoke Monday morning and he’s quite happy with where it’s all trending.
That’s how we want him to be feeling when going into a Major championship.
Grant Field is the Director and Head of Coaching at Pelican Waters Golf Club and has been nominated for Queensland Teaching Professional of the Year each of the past three years. In addition to Cameron Smith Field works with European Tour player Maverick Antcliff and is the head coach for both Golf Queensland and the Queensland Academy of Sport.