The Open - Golf: Review
Australian Cameron Smith won his first Major thanks to a supreme display of putting in his final round of The Open Championship.
The 28-year-old had to erode a four-shot gap to the leaders on Sunday afternoon, and his bogey-free round of 64 was just what the doctor ordered as he rose above both Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland, ultimately finishing one shot clear of playing partner Cameron Young.
Smith's skill with the putter proved the difference, as he made five consecutive birdies to pile the pressure on McIlroy, who had led for most of the day.
St Andrews success just the start
Smith now has eight wins to his name as a professional, but none of those will taste any sweeter than Sunday's success at the "home of golf".
The Brisbane-born star had never won a major before the 150th Open Championship, with a T2 effort at the Masters the closest he had come in 2020.
Even though he had work to do, Smith seemed to take everything in his stride on Sunday, and it was enough to get his hands on the iconic Claret Jug.
Sunday's win caps off a thrilling year for Smith, who entered the event as the world number six. He won the "fifth major", the Players Championship, earlier this season, while he was also victorious at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the start of the year.
As expected, Smith was emotional during his winning speech, and he paid tribute to his team, while dedicating his victory to those back home Down Under.
He said: "What a week - I'm going to fall apart here I know. I want to thank the team here for all their hard work, and this one makes it worth it.
"To the RandA - a fantastic week, to St Andrews Links and everyone involved - it was absolutely awesome out there.
"The course was exactly how an Open championship should be played.
"Lastly, to you guys, the fans - I had a lot of support out there, especially the Aussie guys. You guys really kept me going out there. Seemed like that there was a lot of you guys, and you kept me plugging away.
"This one's for Oz."
After landing the first major of his career, Smith will hope Sunday's success is a launchpad for 2023, and he is 13.00 to win his first Green Jacket at The Masters in April 2023.
McIlroy full of praise for rising star
Even though Northern Ireland's McIlroy surrendered a four-shot lead on Sunday, it was not a tournament that he threw away.
While in the past McIlroy has succumbed to the pressure, the four-time major winner made no huge errors as he battled his way around St Andrews on Sunday afternoon.
McIlroy did not drop a shot while playing alongside Norway's Viktor Hovland, but he was unable to find the necessary birdies and had to settle for a two-under 70.
The fan favourite failed to use his power to the best of his ability, while his putter was not as hot as Smith's.
However, that was the issue, with nobody able to keep pace with Smith in the closing stages on Sunday afternoon. Rather than bemoan his own display, McIlroy paid tribute to his rival.
He told NBC: "I had a great opportunity today to add to that major tally, and I didn't quite get it done. I didn't feel like I did many things wrong, but the putter went cold on me throughout the round.
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"I did what I wanted to do. I played a really controlled round of golf. I didn't take advantage of the holes I had been taking advantage of this week.
"Both Camerons, but especially Smith, went on a run on the back nine, I had to dig deep to make some birdies, and I just couldn't.
"I got beaten by the better player this week. To shoot 64 to win an Open Championship at St Andrews is one hell of a showing, so hats off to Cam; he's had an unbelievable week."
McIlroy will now get time to work on his game ahead of next year's Masters, where a win at 10.00 would allow him to complete the career Grand Slam.
Young ends his round in style to snatch second
American Cameron Young burst out of the blocks with a 64 on Thursday, and he was only one shot worse off on Sunday as he eagled the last to record a sensational 65.
That was enough to snatch second from McIlroy, while Hovland dropped three places into a share of fourth after a round of 74. Hovland shared that spot with England's Tommy Fleetwood, while Dustin Johnson failed to make his move on Sunday, sharing sixth with fellow American Brian Harman.
Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth all finished on 12-under par in a tie for eighth, while the Silver Medal for leading amateur went to Italy's Filippo Celli.