Heading into Sunday’s final round at The Open, many believed it was going to be a two-horse race between co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland who were four shots clear of the field.
Cam Smith – one of those golfers who began the day four shots back – had different Sunday plans at St. Andrews.
McIlroy didn’t just hand the Claret Jug over to Smith, either. He hit all 18 greens in regulation, posted a 2-under 70, and beat Hovland by four shots. Smith simply caught fire on the back nine and went out and took his first major championship in extremely impressive style.
Smith did enough to give himself a chance on his outward nine holes turning a 2-under on the day and keeping himself within striking distance of McIlroy. Then, the Aussie went on an unconscious birdie run proving that he’s undoubtedly the most clutch putter in all of golf.
The 28-year-old Aussie reeled off five straight birdies to begin his final nine holes. He did so while the entire town of St. Andrews was pulling for McIlroy, which only makes his Sunday performance that much more impressive.
Smith’s only error came on the Par 4 17th hole.
After pulling his approach shot and coming up just short of one of the many deadly bunkers at St. Andrews, Smith had to take his medicine after missing his only green of the day. Instead of trying to get too cute with a wedge, he pulled putter and was forced to roll it well right of the hole.
Smith was left with a 12-foot par putt to hold onto his one-shot lead at the time. As soon as he struck the putt there was never a doubt it was falling, just like every other putt he looked at on the back nine on Sunday.
'Oh my goodness'
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 17, 2022
Smith kept his foot on the gas on the 18th tee as well hitting driver just short of the green and managing to two-putt for birdie to put things out of reach for McIlroy. The Aussie ended up posting a 6-under 30 on the back nine for one of the greatest nine-hole stretches in major championship history.
McIlroy ended his day with a par on the last to give him a third-place finish. Unable to get it done at St. Andrews and running into a red-hot Smith, McIlroy is still chasing his first major championship since 2014. Cameron Young, who played with Smith on Sunday, eagled the 18th to bump McIlroy out of second place.
Rory McIlroy began the day 4 shots clear of the field. Had the entire country of Scotland pulling for him. Hit 18 greens. Shot 2-under. Beat the guy he co-led with going into Sunday by 4.
Ultimately he loses by 2 and finishes 3rd.
If today wasn't the day for him, when is it?
— Mark Harris (@itismarkharris) July 17, 2022
With Smith winning the final major of the year, this marks the first time ever that in a single calendar year all four majors were won by someone in their 20s.
With this win pairing nicely with his Players win earlier in the year, Smith has firmly inserted his name next to Scottie Scheffler’s in the Player of the Year discussion.