Cameron Smith’s putter might have carried him to victory at the Open, but it was his fitness that put him in contention in the first place.

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Welcome to Play Smart, a column to help you play golf smarter and better from game improvement editor Luke Kerr-Dineen (who you can follow on Twitter here).

Cameron Smith’s 150th Open Championship came, above all, with his putter. And rightly so. His flat stick caught fire on Sunday, helping him birdie five times to start the back nine and a 64 to grab the trophy from Rory McIlroy.

But while his putter was the star of the show, he was performing on a platform built by the rest of his game. By working on his weaknesses, he allowed his strength to flourish. For the 2022 Open champion, that meant working harder not just on the course, but in the gym.

Cameron Smith is not a prototypical 21st century athlete, unlike those around him at the top of the Open rankings. A shadow under six feet and 172 pounds, Smith not only lacked the strength of his peers, he also had mobility issues.

“At 16, he was weak, tight and had alarming postural adaptations to golf,” said his trainer Nick Randall. “He was in constant pain and discomfort in a number of areas.”

Smith, like the rest of us, also loves tasty food. He has a weakness for “Beers and meat pies.“It’s a testament to his talent and intelligence that he made it to the PGA Tour anyway. But he was leaving yards on the table: In his first full season on the PGA Tour, in 2015-16, Smith averaged 286 yards from the tee (132nd in driving distance) and a clubhead speed of 111 mph (113th on tour).

Worse still, he was gaining weight, which aggravated his mobility issues and left him exhausted after rounds. That’s when, in Cam’s own words, he decided to “get down.”

Find a sustainable diet and exercise

When the PGA Tour season came to a halt due to the global pandemic in 2020, Smith and Randall embarked on a strict three-month “training camp” designed to cut fat, build strength and improve mobility. . Smith emerged from this period leaner and faster. By the end of the 2020-21 seasonits driving distance increased to 297 meters and its average swing speed reached north of 113 meters.

“I lost a little weight and my body moves a little faster when I don’t have so much around my stomach,” he said. “I feel like I can walk off the golf course without being destroyed. I feel pretty fresh coming off the golf course, a feeling I don’t think I’ve had in a long time. I think that’s why my play probably got a lot more consistent over the four rounds.

Once the fitness blitz was over, Smith’s task settled into a steady routine he could maintain.

He’s reintroduced the things he likes back into his diet – “I eat the stuff that makes me happy and I drink a few beers with the guys,” he says – but he enjoys them in moderation. After his Open Championship win, Smith says he enjoys making spaghetti bolognese when he’s at home. But before his final lap at St. Andrews, he enjoyed a “chicken and veg” dinner on Saturday night.

Smith also kept the good habits: cycling was an exercise adopted during his months of training camp that is now part of his more diligent pre-round warm-up routine.

“Cam likes to keep things simple and use practice and training approaches that can be completed in a short time with minimal hassle,” Randall told the PGA Tour. “Her 15-minute routine of self-massage, stretching, and posture adjustments is literally a daily habit.”

“For the past five or six years, I’ve been really inconsistent with my training,” Smith told the Masters. “The last eight months or so I’ve been very consistent.”

While his journey to better fitness started with a big boost, it was sustained with many small, consistent efforts. Or, in other words, with discipline: lots of little effort, applied consistently.

“Some people would have called me probably lazy,” Smith said after his victory, trophy in hand. “Spending an extra half hour with my driver made me a lot better.”

Now he has a new trophy to prove it.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Contributor Golf.com

Luke Kerr-Dineen is Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role, he oversees the brand’s game improvement content covering instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s media platforms.

Alumnus of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort golf team, where he helped them rise to No. 1 in the NAIA National Rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue her Masters in Journalism at Columbia University. . His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast.