15 Mar 2022 | Professional golf |
Aussies on Tour: Smith's confession on that shot at 17
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
It is an instant addition to the greatest shots ever seen at the infamous 17th at TPC Sawgrass yet Cameron Smith has conceded his 9-iron to four feet in the final round was braver than he’d intended.
Coming off clutch par saves at 14, 15 and 16, Smith had to first watch Sam Burns hit his tee shot into the water right of golf’s most terrifying green complex before stepping up himself.
Holding a two-stroke buffer, the prudent play was to the centre of the putting surface but Shot Tracer showed a tee shot that started right of the flag and threatened to drift even further.
It held its line, however, nestled four feet, four inches from the cup and the resulting birdie putt provided a three-shot advantage that would be trimmed to just one by tournament end.
“I’d be lying if I said I was aiming there,” Smith admitted.
“I was probably aiming 10 feet left of that. But still wanted to stay aggressive, still wanted to make birdie.
“It was the shot that I wanted to play. I just thought the wind was going to kind of hold it up for most of the way. It actually kind of drifted right and then held its line at the end there.
“Heart was in the throat there for a second, but I knew it was the right club.”
With mother Sharon and sister Melanie in the gallery – reunited after more than two years apart – Smith delivered the ball-striking display and short-game wizardry necessary to finish atop golf’s strongest field.
The reward was a place in history and a cheque for $US3.6 million, the largest winner’s prize money in PGA TOUR history.
His 101 putts for the week is the lowest in the history of THE PLAYERS and drew a comparison to who many consider the greatest putter of all-time, Tiger Woods.
But it may have been the presence of family that proved most critical in such a disrupted week that was forced into a Monday finish in Florida.
TPC Sawgrass is just five minutes from Smith’s home and while he might not get a job as a tour guide, having his family in the house may have been the distraction he needed to stay fresh in such a gruelling week.
“It was nice having some company at home in the rain delays,” said Smith, who was noticeably emotional whenever his mother and sister were mentioned.
“Last week we spent a lot of time just kind of hanging out, showing them around Jacksonville.
“They obviously knew I had to play this week so they weren’t really expecting much, but it’s nice to come out here and play well for them.”
Now 28 years of age, Smith began 2022 with a target of becoming a top-10 player in the world.
He achieved that in week one with a record win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and has risen to a career-high of No.6 following his Sawgrass heroics.
He told the panel on Live From The Players that he now wants to become the No.1 player in the world and is slowly becoming accustomed to life in that upper echelon.
“I feel as though I’m playing the best that I’ve ever played,” Smith said.
“The last three or four years being the guy that kind of goes from 20th to 40th in the
World Rankings, and then all of a sudden to be sixth is kind of weird.
“But I feel as though I’ve put in the work. I’ve done a lot of work on my body and I’ve put in the time.
“It’s nice to see all that stuff paying off.”
Su Oh was on track to make it an Aussie double as she held a share of the lead at the Honda LPGA Thailand through 36 holes chasing her first LPGA Tour title.
After a difficult start she bounced back late in her third round but a closing 70 saw her fall to a tie for 21st, Minjee Lee the leading Australian again in a share of 12th.
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