24 Aug 2021 | Professional golf |
Playoff heartbreak for Smith at Northern Trust
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
A wayward tee shot at the first playoff hole has denied Cameron Smith the biggest win of his career at the $US9.5 million Northern Trust in New Jersey.
The first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs was forced into a Monday finish due to Tropical Cyclone Henri dumping nine inches of rain on Sunday, the final round delayed a further few hours on Monday morning as grounds staff scrambled to make the course playable.
Starting the final round level with Jon Rahm (69) at the top of the leaderboard, Smith (67) fought back with birdies at 16 and 17 to join Tony Finau (65) at 20-under par and had a putt at the 72nd hole of just less than 24 feet to win the championship.
That putt came up a foot short of the cup but it was the tee shot on the first additional hole that would determine his fate, a carve out of bounds from the 18th tee giving the Queenslander too much to do after Finau safely found the fairway.
“Just a terrible swing. Just a mis-hit, and in these conditions, you can’t mis-hit the ball,” lamented Smith, who pocketed $US1.035 million for finishing second.
“Got a little bottom-y and a little bit heel-y and just blew up in the wind and went a long ways right.
“My driver has cost me a few tournaments this year. That makes mean more determined to try and figure it out before the end of the year.”
Despite the disappointment of the playoff defeat – the first of his professional career – Smith has now climbed to third in the FedEx Cup standings behind Finau and Rahm and in position to push for the $15 million bounty on offer at the completion of the Tour Championship.
“That’s why we’re here, we’re here for the FedEx Cup,” Smith added.
“Luckily for us there’s always next week. We’ve got two events left to try to make another move, so looking forward to it.”
A birdie putt from 40 feet at the second hole gave Smith sole possession of the lead early in the final round but it would prove to be short-lived, a tee shot that found the water at the par-4 fifth leading to a double bogey that in truth could have been even worse.
Early in the back nine it appeared as though Rahm and Finau would separate themselves from the field as they opened a two-shot cushion but Rahm’s bogey at 15 and Smith’s late surge turned the tournament on its head.
When Rahm failed to make birdie at the short par-4 16th Smith’s perfect pitch from just short of the green and birdie putt from three feet enabled him to draw level with Rahm at 19-under par. When he backed that up with a birdie from seven feet at 17 he was tied with Finau at the top of the leaderboard with just one hole to play.
An approach from 200 yards gave Smith a look at victory in regulation but his attempt from 23 feet, six inches came up short and sent the tournament into a playoff.
Smith is one of four Aussies to advance to the second round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs to continue at the BMW Championship in Maryland later this week.
Cam Davis remains in 36th position in the FedEx Cup standings after climbing into a tie for 31st on Monday with a round of 3-under 69, Marc Leishman will enter the BMW in 35th position after ending the week at Liberty National in a tie for 47th and despite missing the cut Matt Jones enters week two in 42nd spot.
Adam Scott (90th) and Jason Day (114th) both saw their PGA Tour seasons come to an end after missing the cut.
The Northern Trust
Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, New Jersey
Winner Tony Finau 67-64-68-65—264 $US1.71m
Won on the first hole of sudden death playoff
2 Cameron Smith 69-68-60-67—264 $1.035m
T31 Cam Davis 69-70-68-69—276 $48,925
T47 Marc Leishman 69-70-69-70—278 $24,330
MC Adam Scott 67-75—142
MC Jason Day 73-73—146
MC Matt Jones 79-70—149
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