AAP Golf

Hard-working Smith targets golf’s top 20

By AAP Newswire

PGA Tour star Cameron Smith says his relaxed nature disguises a deep-rooted desire to be ranked among golf's elite players.

Smith is determined to break into the world's top 20 this year and wants to start the mission this week at the elite Genesis Open in Los Angeles.

Smith entered last year's event ranked world No.57 and played in the final group on Sunday at Riviera Country Club, alongside eventual winner Bubba Watson - finishing in a share of sixth.

A superb 12 months - highlighted by a top-five at the Masters at Augusta and victory at the Australian PGA Championship - have catapulted Smith to a career-high ranking of 27th.

With a top-10 result and two other top-25s in three PGA Tour starts this year, the Brisbane native believes a debut stint in the top 20 is within reach.

"One of my big goals for this year is to crack that top 20 and keep working my way up the rankings," Smith told AAP at Riviera.

The softly-spoken Smith projects an easy-going image but said he isn't that carefree away from television cameras.

To his team, the 25-year-old is regarded as a perfectionist who works on his game for hours after competitive rounds.

Smith has improved his work ethic since winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2017 - a teams event - because he wants to earn a maiden individual victory on the PGA Tour.

That includes extra hours of practise, gym sessions and regular US visits from his Australia-based coach Grant Field.

"I'm definitely a pretty laid-back guy but what people don't really see is the hours I put in on the driving range, in the gym, and eating the right foods," Smith said.

"I know what I'm capable of but I know it's not going to come without hard work."

Smith is eager to become the fourth Australian winner at Riviera after Aaron Baddeley (2011), Adam Scott (2005) and Robert Allenby (2001).

"This tournament always has a high-quality field; it's one of the most prestigious events on tour and it'd be special to put my name on the trophy," Smith said.

Smith is referring to a star-studded line-up this week that includes event host Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, defending champion Watson, 2017 winner Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.

Smith's countryman Marc Leishman said the high-calibre field is good preparation for the major championships.

"I'm aiming for big things this year with the majors, and to win a major you have to beat the big names there too," Leishman said.

Other Australians in the field are Baddeley, Scott, John Senden, Curtis Luck, Cameron Davis and Rod Pampling.