Putting masterclass: Smith wins historic 150th edition of The Open

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Putting masterclass: Smith wins historic 150th edition of The Open

By Mark Tallentire
Updated

St Andrews: Cameron Smith stood tall to take his first major title, the 150th British Open, at the home of golf and with a record-equalling score.

There were no gifts, nobody threw it away, the Queenslander simply went out and won it with a superb display from tee to green.

It was a staggering performance from the 28-year-old Australian, wearing his Sunday-best maroon shirt and whose 64 was the best round of the day. He reeled in a four-shot deficit on Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland with a round that featured eight birdies and no blemishes.

He also held off his playing partner, Cameron Young of the US, who had momentarily joined him on 19 under par after holing an eagle putt at the last, forcing Smith to hole from three feet for birdie to move to 20 under and equal the winning aggregate of Henrik Stenson at Troon in 2016.

In doing so, Smith also became only the fifth Australian to lift the Claret Jug, the first since Greg Norman at Sandwich in 1993 and the first to do so at the home of golf since Kel Nagle won the centenary tournament in 1960.

“This one’s for Oz, thanks guys,” an emotional Smith said at the presentation of the Claret Jug on the 18th green. “It’s unreal to look at the names on this trophy.

Cameron Smith celebrates winning the British Open.

Cameron Smith celebrates winning the British Open.Credit:Getty

“I don’t have any family over here, but I’ve got all my team. My dad was actually meant to come over, and he pulled out in the last minute basically. I had a quick chat with him before. He’s kicking himself now. I really wish he was here too. He just kind of thought of doing all that travel, for just one week basically. Dad loves his golf as well. It would have been awesome.”

The win was confirmed when McIlroy’s eagle attempt at the 18th, with a lob wedge from short left of the green, missed the pin. In a further twist, the Northern Irishman slipped to third place, behind Young, after missing the return putt.

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Smith, who promised to stay aggressive after a third round in which he fell victim to a calamitous double-bogey to open the door to Hovland and McIlroy, fired five birdies in a row from the 10th in the final round, the fourth of them at the 13th which had cost him so dearly on Saturday, to get back into the lead on 19 under.

He had already picked up a shot at the second hole, but McIlroy took the outright lead at the fourth, where Hovland three-putted from distance. McIlroy made his first birdie at the next to stretch his lead to two. Then came Smith’s run of birdies, and he realised the win was feasible.

‘This one’s for Oz, thanks guys’

Cameron Smith after winning the Open Championships

“I think my second shot into 13 was really when I thought that we can win this thing,” he said. “I think I had three birdies in a row before that, and then to hit that shot in there, or the two shots, the drive and the second shot, were two of the best all week. For that to go in, I think that was it for me.”

A solid run of pars to the 17th followed and when still on 19 under to McIlroy’s 18, Smith missed the green with a 140-yard approach which kicked left of the “Road Hole” bunker to leave him with a difficult up-and-down. He putted up and on to the green to about 12 feet and, incredibly, made the next to save his par.

“I was just trying to get it inside 15 feet, and the putter felt really good all day,” he said. “I knew if I could get it somewhere in there, that I’d be able to give it a pretty good run. I managed to get away with a four there.”

Coming up behind, McIlroy played his approach from about 160 yards and hit it pin high to about 12 feet but left his birdie putt inches from the cup. Moments later, Smith was putting from the edge of the 18th to three feet.

Young promptly holed his eagle putt and the Australian was forced to hole a three-footer to avoid a four-hole play-off.

“I’m definitely going to find out how many beers fit in this thing,” Smith said of the Claret Jug now in his possession. “I’m going to guess two, two cans of beer. I’ll probably have about 20 Claret Jugs.”

Adam Scott, starting at nine under, had declared he needed to get a fast start to put himself in contention. He was back in the tournament at 13 under after his 10th hole before he came to grief with a lost ball off the tee at the 12th. He finished at one under for the day and tied for 15th place.

All the talk was about Smith, though, who was still on the course. “He’s tough, and he’s owned his game, I think, quickly,” Scott said. “He’s learnt how to play golf very well, very quickly. I think his mind is a big asset, as is his putter.”

Cameron Smith on the 15th hole at St Andrews.

Cameron Smith on the 15th hole at St Andrews.Credit:Getty

Anthony Quayle produced the best performance by an Australian on his Open debut since Mark Hensby in 2005 when he signed for a 67 to finish on the same 10 under mark as Scott and Lucas Herbert, who was another Australian delighted with the experience.

“It’s pretty hard to top that one,” he said. “An Open Championship is very special, but an Open Championship at St Andrews, especially with the golf course playing the way it was, it was a proper test of golf. That walk we just did up 18 was very, very cool.”

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Min Woo Lee, competing in his second British Open and only his fifth major, finished with a 69 for nine under and Jason Scrivener finished on four under for a share of 53rd along with Brad Kennedy, who was unhappy with his level-par Sunday round but was still delighted with the experience, so much so that he was planning to go back on to the course and see the end of proceedings.

“I want to go out and watch. I’ve got friends out from America, people from Australia,” he said. “I’ll try and catch up with them this afternoon. Yeah, just sit back with friends, have a drink, and see what unfolds. Yeah, hopefully it’s going to be the great finish that the tournament deserves.”

And so it was.

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