Preparation is key, but Smith & Block showcase different approaches – ISPS HANDA Australian Open 2023

Words: Paul Prendergast

Photo: Mark Wilson – Golfplus Media.


Most golf watchers who have attended professional golf tournaments for any length of time will have noted the seismic change in approaches to pre-round routines across the years. What was de rigueur 20 or more years ago was the range session pre-round was literally to ‘warm up’, to get a feel for the swing that day and work out a Plan B or C if things didn’t feel right.

Any work on technique or areas of concern was almost exclusively consigned to attention post-round. How times have changed.

I’m not alerting anyone to any breaking news that swing coaches, Trackman devices and various aids are now deemed an essential element to every pre-round ‘warm up’ on tours around the world, Dame Laura Davies respectfully excluded.

A prominent case in point on the second day of the ISPS HANDA Australian Open this week was Australia’s current number one ranked male golfer, Cameron Smith. Sidling into a position on the range an hour ahead of his noon tee time next to American invitee Michael Block – more on Block later – Smith’s ‘workstation’ was quickly set up with Trackman, caddie, coach and other assorted reps in close proximity.

With a litany of school kids eagerly taking a vantage point behind the 2022 Open champion, Smith worked slowly through a series of wedge shots that all appeared to be perfectly struck and flighted identically, before moving up through to longer clubs. The intermittent shots were punctuated by consultation with his retinue and Trackman readouts, before reaching into the bag to attach a training aid to his right arm that is clearly designed to improve the connectivity of the takeaway.

Not having seen Smith on the range at every tournament in recent years, you can expect this is ‘business’ as usual for the Queenslander and not just giving off the impression that he was grinding for form after his horror showing at the Australian PGA the previous week.

The 47-year old Block however, was indeed a slight throwback to a past era as he toiled away hitting driver after driver just to the right of Smith. His smooth and powerful action propelled the ball with great height and monotonous regularity to the far end of the range, with just his caddie in tow for any advice or guidance should he need it.

This is not to be critical of his dedication to duty, although it was staggering to see him working away in the midday heat well before Smith arrived and hours before his own tee time at 1.08pm. And wearing a long-sleeve hoodie no less.

Both approaches appear to have worked to a certain degree on a hot afternoon at The Australian. A bogey on the par-five 14th meant that Block had to par in to ensure the so-called Block Party would continue into the weekend. With the wind picking up, this was no mean feat but the American did just that to the raucous approval of a hardy few on the hill near the 18th green.   

It’s another demonstration of Smith’s standing in the game that he would have been frustrated with his three-under 68 playing alongside a rampant Min Woo Lee. Plenty of solid golf was offset with some of the miscues that were also evident in Brisbane, and a lacklustre putter that had his emotions bubbling to the surface on more than one occasion.

A missed green and par putt on 17 saw the offending ball deposited to the pond fronting the green and after a superb tee shot on 18, finding the bunker in front of the pin with a short iron approach had Smith remonstrating with his caddie about the strike or yardage, or possibly both. It was no surprise that he quickly repaired to the putting green immediately after signing his card with his coach to work on the part of his game that is widely regarded as the showpiece.

Smith’s halfway total of four-under was two inside the cut line but he will start the weekend a full eight strokes adrift of Lee, as they both seek to have their names engraved on the Stonehaven Cup for the first time.

Momentum is a wonderful thing as Smith can certainly attest and the momentum at present is all with the Western Australian. However, it certainly won’t be for a lack of effort and a deep desire to perform well in front of home crowds if the Queenslander fails to reel in the deficit over the final two days.


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