17 Jul 2022 | Professional golf |
Putting perfection powers Smith to Claret Jug
by Dane Heverin
By Dane Heverin at St Andrews
A late night putting session has powered Cameron Smith to his first major title in a historic triumph by one stroke at St Andrews in the 150th Open.
The Champion Golfer of the Year headed to the practice green before bed on Saturday evening to imprint putts dropping in his mind after the flat stick let him down in his third round 73 and it proved to be the catalyst for his record-breaking final round of 64.
His eight-under effort was the lowest final round to ever win The Open at St Andrews, he also eclipsed Tiger Woods’ record of 19-under from 2005 for the best winning score at the Old Course by one shot to equal Henrik Stenson’s all-time scoring record to par - at Royal Troon in 2016 - in an Open.
The 28-year-old’s place in history was forged by an unbelievable back nine of 30 which included a run of five straight birdies from the 10th to the 14th as the golfing gods smiled on him and the putts began to drop.
“The only difference today, was the putts were dropping. I spent a little bit of time on the green yesterday night, last night, and just really wanted to see a few putts go in. Yeah, it turned out it was a pretty good thing to do,” Smith said.
“I knew my game was there. I felt really comfortable. At the end of last week, I started playing some really good golf. Yeah, I just really needed to keep doing what I was doing. I didn't do anything wrong yesterday. It was just really one of those days.
“So I shrugged it off pretty good, hit a few putts. I just wanted to see a few putts go in. I didn't think there was really anything wrong technically. I just wanted to see a few putts go in before I went to sleep, and that kind of put me at ease to know that it really wasn't me, it was just kind of one of those days.
“I think that was the best thing I did all week was just to go out there and spend five minutes on the green.”
That late night session away from the spotlight kicked into gear crucially on the closing two holes where Smith twice putted up the slope from off the green to near-perfect positions and duly holed major-winning par and birdie putts.
He appeared to be a man possessed as he headed down the Home of Golf’s famous finishing stretch invoking the mongrel and determination so typical of every Australian champion.
“For me, the putt on 11 was a pretty good distance, probably 20 feet. When that one dropped, yeah, I could see the hole getting a lot bigger on that back nine for sure,” he said.
“I think maybe after my second or third birdie there on the back nine, I was starting to think that I could really win this thing. I think I was three back with nine holes to go, and I really needed to make something happen.
“But, yeah, I would say those first three holes on that back nine really came to me, and then from there I was starting to get different emotions and really had to keep an eye on what I was thinking and just different shots into greens.”
Smith becomes the fifth Australian to win the Open alongside five-time winner Peter Thomson, two-time champion Greg Norman, Kel Nagle and Ian Baker-Finch.
He kept the Australian tradition alive of winning the momentous Opens after Nagle won the 100th playing of golf’s oldest major and he is the first Australian to win since fellow Queenslander Norman lifted the Claret Jug in 1993.
Unfortunately the world number six had no family in attendance to witness the biggest moment of his career however after his father Des pulled out of the trip to Scotland last minute because he did not fancy the long-haul flight.
“Yeah, he's definitely kicking himself now,” Smith said with a laugh.
“I really wish he was here too. It would have been such a cool week, even without this, to be at the home of golf. Dad loves his golf as well. It would have been awesome.”
As for the celebrations, Smith’s team and the strong Australian contingent present are expected to party well into the night but the man himself thinks he may not have the energy left to put in a decent shift with them.
“I'm going to guess two, two cans of beer (fit in the Claret Jug}. I'll probably have about 20 Claret Jugs,” he said laughing hysterically.
“I'm not sure, mate. To be honest, I'm really tired. It's been a long week, so I'd be surprised if I make it past 10:00 or 11:00 tonight.”
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