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Cam Smith rushed to a spot in the PGA Championship

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Smith has arrived in Louisville confident he can claim a second major championship after strong performances at the Masters and LIV Golf Singapore, despite his battle with illness and injury.

The former world No. 2 finished sixth at Augusta National even while playing with the flu, then finished second to defending PGA champion Brooks Koepka in the last start after suffering a hip injury in the opening round.

Smith says he is now back to full health and firing on all cylinders as he prepares to tackle the Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club for the first time.

“Everything feels good. The game feels great,” he said ahead of Thursday’s start.

“I feel like this whole year has only gotten better and yeah, I’m excited and ready for this week.”

The cream has traditionally risen to the top in Valhalla, as evidenced by Rory McIlroy’s victory ten years ago and Tiger Woods’ salute in 2000 en route until completing the legendary “Tiger Slam”.

Smith, a short-game wizard, relishes such challenges and hopes one of golf’s ultimate tests can produce another major to add to his 2022 Open victory at St Andrews, when he flew past McIlroy down the stretch.

“I’ve only been able to play the first nine so far. We’re having a bit of less weather here today, so I’m going to see as much of the course as possible today,” he said.

‘I haven’t been here yet, so there will be a lot to do in the next few days.

“It’s in great shape and it’s tough. It’s probably going to be a long week, looking at the weather forecast this week. There will be some early mornings.”

As usual for the historically grueling major, finding fairways will be crucial for those looking to get their names engraved on Sunday’s Wanamaker Trophy.

“The rugged doesn’t seem that long, but it’s just really dense, it’s quite patchy,” Smith said.

“So it’s hard to say whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Obviously it is much easier to get off the fairways.

“But I think the course is going to be a lot softer and it’s going to be a little easier to hit the fairways and easier to hit the greens. It’s just going to be a long week.”

“I feel like this whole year has only gotten better and yeah, I’m excited and ready for this week.” –Cam Smith.

Smith is one of six Australians trying to prevent Koepka from joining Woods as a four-time PGA Championship winner, or denying rampant world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler a fifth victory in his past six starts.

Jason Day, the 2015 winner and 2016 runner-up, is also feeling optimistic after finishing fourth behind McIlroy at the Wells Fargo Championship last week.

Like Smith, Min Woo Lee had his best PGA Championship result last year, finishing 22nd at the Masters despite playing with a broken finger.

Veteran former world number 1 Adam Scott will mark his incredible 91st consecutive major appearance by playing the first two rounds alongside Woods.

Cameron Davis, an outstanding driver, showed he has what it takes at the biggest levels of golf with a tie for 12th at Augusta and a tie for fourth at Oak Hill last year.

And Lucas Herbert is back for a fifth PGA Championship crack after being one of seven LIV Golf stars invited.

The eight-man Antipodean contingent is completed by PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner Kazuma Kobori and fellow Kiwi Ryan Fox.

– Darren Walton

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