The 150th playing of The Open Championship called for a final round worthy of the annals of history. Cameron Smith rose up to the occasion, and wrote his own chapter on the Old Course.
Smith used a run of five consecutive birdies to card an 8-under-par 64, overtake Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and win The Open by one stroke for his first major title Sunday at St. Andrews in Scotland.
The Australian posted a four-round score of 20-under 268, tying the major championship record for lowest score relative to par. Cameron Young, his playing partner, eagled the 18th hole to place second with a 65, while McIlroy finished two shots back.
Smith started the day off four shots behind the pace. He won The Players Championship in March, and was close to the Masters. However, he fell in the final round, and finished third.
“I want to thank the team, all the hard work we’ve done,” said Smith, 28, as he accepted the Claret Jug. The last few years have paid off and this Claret Jug is proof that it was worth the effort
McIlroy’s bogey-free 70 was only enough for third place at 18 under. He notched top-10 finishes at all four majors this year, but couldn’t cure his major title drought that dates to 2014.
” “It’s not death or life,” McIlroy stated. McIlroy said, “I will have more chances to win Open Championships and win majors.” This is a one I felt like I lost, but there will still be opportunities .”
Smith had two birdies in the first nine, before scoring five consecutive at Nos. 10-14 to pass McIlroy and touch 19 under. He rolled in putts of 16, 11 and 18 feet at the 11th through 13th holes to tie McIlroy, then got up and down for birdie at the par-5 14th to grab the solo lead.
” I really wanted to be patient on the back nine,” Smith stated. Smith said, “I believe I was three or four back at the turn. It was clear that I had to wait. It felt great all day. The putts started coming in on the back nine, which gave me a lot more momentum .”
Smith on Sunday. The crowd favorite hit every green in regulation but two-putted all 18 holes, leaving several birdie opportunities behind him.
” I felt like I did nothing wrong, but it wasn’t that bad,” McIlroy stated. It was just one day where I had a very controlled round. Apart from making the easy holes, I did exactly what was necessary .”
Smith preserved his one-stroke lead with a par save at the par-4 17th, the “Road Hole.” His second shot missed short, and he had to putt around a pot bunker up onto the green to set up a 10-foot par putt.
Young, the PGA Tour rookie making his Open debut, drove the 18th green and drained a 17-foot eagle putt to increase the pressure on Smith. McIlroy could not pull off a crucial eagle at No. 18.
” I feel like my lungs are open,” Smith stated. The last four to five holes here are difficult, particularly with wind off to the left. It’s true, I am just so proud of the way that I managed to do it .”
Smith also fired a 64 Friday to take the 36-hole lead, but a 73 on Saturday sent him tumbling four shots behind McIlroy and Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
Hovland went toe to toe with McIlroy Saturday, when they both shot rounds of 66 and took a four-shot co-lead. Hovland did not make a birdie on Sunday until the No. 12 and posted a 2-over 74. He tied for fourth at 14 under with England’s Tommy Fleetwood (67).
Neither McIlroy or Hovland putt on the front nine big, but they converted just one birdie. Hovland missed a bad approach shot at No. McIlroy is the sole leader after McIlroy’s four-putt for bogey.
McIlroy took advantage of the par-5 next hole by going in two to reach the green and scoring a birdie, while Hovland was parred. McIlroy drove the green at the par-4 10th and two-putted for his second birdie to get to 18 under before Smith’s charge began.
Young had five birdies, two bogeys and an electric eagle before the final. The 25-year-old notched his second top-three major finish this year after finishing a stroke out of the playoff at the PGA Championship in May.
” Young stated that he had said to the PGA: “One of these times, I’ll shoot five under on my back and it will be enough.” Today I was able to do that. It wasn’t. It wasn’t.
Brian Harman (66) and Dustin Johnson (69) finished at 13 under, tied for sixth. Bryson DeChambeau (66), Jordan Spieth (68) and Patrick Cantlay (68) were T8 at 12 under.
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana fired 65s early in the day to reach 11 under; they finished in a tie for 11th with South Africa’s Dean Burmester (66) and England’s Tyrrell Hatton (68).