Australia’s Cameron Smith produced one of the all-time great final rounds in major history to win the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews with a sizzling 64 that left his rivals toiling in his wake.
The 28-year-old Queenslander, who had let slip a good chance to win this year’s Masters with a disappointing back nine, started the final round four shots behind joint leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland, and looked for all the world to be chasing for the minor honours when he was still that far behind after nine holes. But a miraculous run of five consecutive birdies from the tenth to the 14th saw the Players Championship winner take a one-shot lead with four holes left to play.
Rory McIlroy didn’t miss a green in regulation all day but failed to register a single one-putt birdie in his closing two-under-par 70
With Hovland seemingly failing to cope with the pressure of playing in the final group of a major championship, the door had seemed open for McIlroy to end his eight years of hurt since his last major success. But the 33-year-old’s putter, not the first time in his career, went stone cold on Sunday, with the Northern Irishman missing five birdie putts from inside 12 feet en route to a final round 70, that left him, almost unbelievably, in third place after American Cameron Young eagled the final hole to leapfrog into second.
Smith, after saving par at the 17th with a stunning two-putt from around the Road Hole bunker, made an easy birdie at the last – his eighth of the day – to take his 72-hole total to record-equalling 20 under par, with scores of 67, 64, 73 and 64.
After being presented with the famous Claret Jug, Smith said: ‘To win an Open Championship in itself is probably going to be the highlight of a golfer’s career, but to do it around St Andrews is just unbelievable. It is something I’ve dreamt of and it’s unreal to look at the names on this trophy and then see mine.”
Asked how he would celebrate, Smith said: ‘I’ll probably have about 20 Claret Jugs of beer, and I definitely want to find out how many beers fit into the jug!”
A visibly distraught McIlroy said: “I’m disappointed obviously. I felt like I didn’t do much wrong today, but I didn’t do much right either. I got beaten by a better player this week. To shoot 64 to win an Open Championship at St Andrews is one hell of a showing, so hats off to Cam, he’s had an unbelievable week.“Coming down 14, I knew that I needed to respond to Cam [Smith], but I just couldn’t find the shots or the putts to do that. The putter just went a little cold today compared to the last three days. I can’t be too despondent because of how this year’s going. I’m playing some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. So, it’s just a matter of keep knocking on the door, and eventually one will open. I just have to dust myself off and come again and keep working hard and keep believing. I’ll be okay. I’ll have other chances to win the Open Championship and other chances to win majors. It’s one that I feel like I let slip away, but there will be other opportunities.”
Hovland, who closed with a 74 to finish tied fourth, will rue a missed opportunity to break his major duck, but having not previously finished inside the top 10 in 10 previous major starts, this experience will serve him well for the bright future that surely awaits him in these championships.
The Norwegian’s 14-under total was matched by Tommy Fleetwood, who closed with a 67 to follow up Saturday’s 66, while the rest of the top 10 was completed by a quintet of Americans led by Dustin Johnson and Brian Harman on 13 under, and Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay on 12 under. Tyrrell Hatton finished in a tie for 11th on 11 under after a closing 68, while US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick finished tied 21st on 9 under after a 72.
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