Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes, LIV Golf Correspondent
Mar 05 2024
- 4 MIN
Smith likes Hong Kong GC

HONG KONG – Ripper GC captain Cameron Smith is hoping to "get the mojo back" as he and his team prepare for this week's LIV Golf Hong Kong on one of his favorite courses in the world.

Last year, Smith won twice in 13 LIV Golf starts while notching up four other top-10s to wind up second in the overall standings but this season he has failed to spark consistently - mainly due to ongoing problems off the tee.

In his first three LIV Golf outings of 2024, the 30-year-old Australian tied for eighth at LIV Golf Mayakoba in Mexico, shared 15th place at LIV Golf Las Vegas and then struggled in windy conditions last week to end up joint 41st at LIV Golf Jeddah.

The bare statistics tell much of the story. While Smith continues to be arguably the best putter in the game - he is No. 1 in LIV Golf putting average this season after ranking No. 1 in 2023 - he is tied for 51st in fairway accuracy at 40.48% and ranks 42nd in driving distance with a 292.8-yard average.

Since the start of this year, he has been working hard on a tweak in his swing relating to timing and tempo and he fully accepts that he will experience some adjustment pains while it is still a work in progress.

"It's coming," Smith said on Tuesday after a practice session on the range at Hong Kong Golf Club. "It's frustrating, but I knew this was going to be the case for a little bit."

As Smith succeeds or fails in tournaments, so too generally do the Rippers and the all-Australian combination will be hoping that their inspirational leader will return to his customary form this week on a shot-maker's course that he loved from the first time that he saw it.

"We don't get to play too many courses like this," the 2022 Open champion said. "It is more of a strategic course and playing courses like that is something I enjoy. I like to be creative and a course like this allows you to be that creative player and person. The golf course is one of the best in Asia."

Smith first competed at this venue in the 2014 Hong Kong Open, tying for ninth place, and he then teed it up in the same event last year when he finished solo second - one stroke behind LIV Golf reserve player Ben Campbell.

"It is good to be back in a place where I feel comfortable - it is a golf course I really love and we don't get to play that style much anymore," said Smith. "It is a style of course I grew up with being Australian, so I can't wait to get out there. It is nice to come here to get the mojo back."

Smith's teammates will also be looking to get some mojo going as they tackle Hong Kong Golf Club's Fanling Course after a mixed bag of results last week in Jeddah.

The standout player for the Rippers in Jeddah was the 43-year-old Matt Jones, who ended his week in 14th place after shooting scores of 70, 66 and 66. Next best was three-times DP World Tour winner Lucas Herbert, who shot 65 and 66 before struggling to a 3-over 73 in the final round to finish in a tie for 22nd.

Marc Leishman, however, struggled just like Smith in Jeddah - apart from during the second round. Scores of 72, 66 and 71 left him level with Smith at 1-under, in a share of 41st place.

For the most part, the Rippers enjoyed a successful 2023 season as Smith led superbly by example. The Australians produced a team win in Bedminster, a runner-up spot in London and five other top-seven finishes in 13 regular-season starts.

While the first three events of the 2024 LIV Golf League have not panned out as they would have expected or even hoped, that can all be corrected if mojo is regained this week in Hong Kong.