Cam Smith proved that a man who can put can win a championship, and the Australian proved that adage after overcoming a four-stoke deficit on Sunday to win the 150th edition of the Open Championship.
The Australian golfer, who is more often than not recognized for his mullet, is being heralded for his four-round total of 20-under, one that, in relation to par, equalled the lowest score in major championship history.
<blockquote> “I feel like I can breathe. These last four or five holes aren’t easy around here, especially with the wind up off the left. Yeah, just stuck to what I was doing. Just really proud of how I kind of knuckled down today and managed to get it done.” </blockquote>
Smith, who needed only 28 putts in the final round to get around the course in 64 strokes and managed to jump ahead of Rory McIlroy and put an end to upstart Cameron Young’s dreams of winning the Claret Jug. Smith was especially on fire with his putting on the back nine, using it only nine times while scoring birdies on the first five holes.
On several of those holes, Cam Smith needed a single putt, and his back nine score of 30 was the lowest in Open Championship history. Smith also relied on his putter from off the green at the Old Course, two of which may go down as the best of the week.
The first came on the 17th hole after Smith short-sided his approach that saw his ball landing between the Road Hole bunker and the hole. To overcome what many would have scored a double-bogey, Smith sent his put running along the edge and green before coming to a stop nine feet from the cup.
<blockquote> “I was just trying to get it inside 15 feet, and the putter felt really good all day. I knew if I could get it somewhere in there, that I’d be able to give it a pretty good run. Yeah, managed to get away with a four there.” </blockquote>
On the very next hole, Smith’s drive stopped short of the green resulting in having to overcome a deep swale and the cup. Yet once again, Smith rolled the ball through the swale and onto the green before tapping it into the cup to finish at 20-under.
While Smith had a near-perfect final round, it wasn’t the ideal start after struggling on Saturday, and even though he saw his performance as solid, it brought out the fight on Sunday.
<blockquote> “I sometimes think that being behind on certain golf courses and in certain situations is maybe a good thing. I think it’s very easy to get defensive out there and keep hitting it to 60, 70 feet, and you can make pars all day, but you’re not going to make birdies. I think it was a good thing that I was definitely behind. I think my mindset would have been a touch different coming in, especially on that back nine, if I was ahead.” </blockquote>
However, while Smith was in fine form, the final round was a heartbreaking loss for Rory McIlroy that could have put an end to his eight-year major drought. While the Irishman put on a brave face, it was clear during post-round interviews that he was disappointed.
<blockquote> “Disappointed obviously, I felt like I didn’t do much wrong today, but I didn’t do much right either.” </blockquote>
Unlike Smith, whose putter was his best club, the putter was McIlroy’s coldest and while he managed to hit every green, he was unable to record any bogies, and while that is often enough to win a tournament, was simply not good enough against Smith.
Unfortunately, McIlroy was unable to get his putts to drop, and as often was the case, his approach shots stopped short of the cup. The problem was when he had a chance, many of his putts stopped on the lip, with the exception of the 5th and 10th holes. However, the Northern Irishman did finish in 3rd place, which gives him top-ten finishes in all four majors this year, the only thing missing is a victory.
<blockquote> “I’ve just got to keep putting myself in position, keep putting myself in there, and whenever you put yourself in that shining light, you’re going to have to deal with setbacks and deal with failures. Today is one of those times. But I just have to dust myself off and come again and keep working hard and keep believing.” </blockquote>
With today’s win, Cam Smith joins fellow Aussie Ian Baker-Finch, Greg Norman, Peter Thomson, and Kel Nagle to win the Open Championship. Smith also becomes the second golfer, to win the Open while sporting a mullet other than famed golfer John Daly.