Cameron Smith. Saudi International. 2023/Neville Hopwood

After a whirlwind 2022 that saw Cameron Smith win the Open Championship in a five-trophy haul before his move to LIV Golf, the Australian has rested up recently as he prepares to go again for a huge 2023, beginning at this week’s Asian Tour Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

“I have had some great time off over the festive break,” said Smith, who also won the Australian PGA Championship in November after almost three years away from home. “I have just started getting going again. I was in Dubai last week with my mates and we had some fun, relaxing and that. To be in a competition setting will be a little bit different, but yeah, we’ll come around as the week gets on.

“The course here at Jeddah is a really good test. It usually gets quite gusty and really windy around here, so you have to really control your ball, and the course looks fantastic, as well.”

Looking ahead to a busy year, Smith added: “I think probably 2022 would be a really tough one to back up. I will keep at the same process and keep really digging deep, working hard on my game. I think is really what I need to do. It’s really easy when you’re playing good golf to get quite complacent.

“But I’m not really a massive goal-setter. I kind of set my goals day-to-day. I’m more of a kind of tick-the-box guy. Just do what I can do to make myself a better golfer that day, and hopefully when I’m teeing it up in a tournament, it all comes together, and I on Saturday and Sunday I can hole a few nice putts and lift the trophy.”

Spending more time in Asia and closer to home has been a bonus in recent times, after the pandemic prevented Smith from travelling back to Australia.

“I’ve loved the last four or five months traveling a little bit,” he said. For a while there, I was stuck in the US, obviously due to COVID. But yeah, it’s nice to get out and see different parts of the world and definitely grow the game.

“This is my third time here [in Saudi], and you can see what it’s done just in three years. It’s awesome.

“I really hadn’t spent much time in the Middle East before the start of last year, it’s been unreal. I love it over here. Last week was my first time in Dubai. It was such a great city. We had a lot of fun. We played a lot of good golf courses. It’s definitely feeling more like home for sure.”

With the move to LIV, Smith’s opportunities for ranking points have been hard to come by, with the Australian dropping to No. 4 from No. 2 in the world.

“I’ve tried to take it not that badly, to be honest,” he said. “I think when you rock up to a tournament, you know who you have to beat, whether there’s a World Ranking or not. There’s generally seven or eight guys that are in that field that you know are going to put up a pretty good fight.

“For sure it hurts. I feel as though I was really close to getting to No. 1, and that was definitely something I wanted to tick off, but the longer that this stuff goes on [LIV Golf events not getting points], I think the more obsolete those rankings become.

“Do we need them? It would be nice, but you know who you’ve got to beat when you get on the golf course.”