15 Mar 2022 | Professional golf |
'Legacy building': Cameron Smith wins THE PLAYERS Championship
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
Cameron Smith has delivered a short-game masterclass on the final day to become just the fifth Australian to win THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.
On a wild final day where the top of the leaderboard changed regularly, Smith (66) began his final round with four straight birdies to roar into contention for the $US3.6 million first-place prize money, the richest winner’s cheque in PGA TOUR history.
With his mother Sharon, sister Melissa and best friend Jack Wilkosz in the gallery, Smith’s charge began with a putt from 38 feet at the first and he followed it with birdie putts from nine, eight and 10 feet, Sawgrass biting back to inflict three straight bogeys as he made the turn.
That stumble was short-lived as he went on a three-birdie run from the 10th hole, holding the likes of playing partner Paul Casey (69), Anibarn Lahiri and Keegan Bradley (68) at bay with a peerless display of short-game wizardry.
He made an up-and-down from the right rough at the par-4 12th to restore his one-stroke advantage and his 10th and 11th one-putts of the round secured crucial par saves at the 14th and 15th holes to remain two clear.
There was a hint of pressure finally kicking in when his tee shot at the par-5 16th hooked left but his 21st putt of the day – and 12th one-putt – kept him at 13-under with another nerveless par.
Any sign of nerves normally manifest on the par-3 17th tee yet Smith did something no other player had done all day – hit it right of the flag to four feet, four inches – for a 10th birdie and a three-shot lead heading to the last, matching the most birdies in a single round in tournament history.
“That’s legacy building right there,” Paul Azinger noted in commentary.
For the fourth round in succession Smith missed the 18th fairway and it would prove costly, his punch from the pine straw rolling through the fairway and into the lake that runs the length of the left-side of the hole.
Moments later Lahiri made a ‘2’ of his own at 17 to narrow the gap to two but Smith again leant on his wonderful wedge game to hit his pitch from 57 yards to just two feet, holing out for bogey to post 13-under and a one-shot win.
More to come
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