Cameron Smith described his victory at the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews as “unbelievable”, but amid the celebrations, controversy surrounding the rival LIV tournament rumbled on.
Cameron Smith fought back against overnight co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland’s four-stroke final-round advantage, to beat American Cameron Young by just one shot, with hotly tipped Rory McIlroy finishing two shots behind in third place.
Smith matched the lowest score to par in major championship history (-20) thanks to a stellar 64 in Sunday’s final round.
Cameron Smith said: “To win an Open Championship in itself is probably going to be a golfer’s highlight in their career. To do it around St Andrews, I think is just unbelievable. This place is so cool. I love the golf course. I love the town.”
For McIlroy, the result must have come as a great disappointment, as he had been hoping to break an eight-year run of missed wins; but a run of five successive birdies on the back nine by Smith put paid to McIlroy’s hopes.
Heading into the weekend, Cameron Smith had held a two-shot lead, but Saturday fight backs from McIlroy and Hovland eroded it and prompted Smith to spend Saturday night on putting practice.
“That was the best thing I did all week, just to go out there and spend five minutes on the green” he said after his victory.
Smith, who some pundits call the best putter in the world, became the first Australian to win an Open Championship since Greg Norman won at Royal St George’s in 1993. Smith was three shots behind the leaders at the turn, but with five successive birdies, overtook McIlroy and Viktor Hovland by the 14th, setting up the championship‑winning birdie.
A clearly disappointed McIlroy said: “I got beaten by a better player this week. It’s not life or death. The putter just went a little cold.”
Despite the celebrations, post-play questioning made it impossible for the R&A to side-step the LIV controversy, which it had hoped to do by not inviting Greg Norman, the Australian fronting the LIV project. The first Open victory for fellow Australian Cameron Smith if anything brought more focus on the rivalry, prompting journalists to ask him whether he had been tempted to join.
Speaking after his first Open victory on the Old Course on Sunday, the 28-year-old was clearly irked by the issue being raised, but certainly didn’t rule out the possibility, saying “I don’t know, mate. My team worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.” He added: “I just won The Open, and you’re asking about that. I think that’s not good.”
Two-time Open winner greg Norman sniped at the R&A, calling their decision not to invite him to the exhibition event and dinner for past champions “petty”. But Norman and Smith were not the only players embroiled in the LIV controversy, as Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have all been questioned about their intentions towards the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV tournament, with Garcia announcing that he planned to leave the European-based DP World Tour, a move which would make him ineligible to play in next year’s Ryder Cup.
“I have given more than half my life to the European Tour and I wanted to continue playing it, but I am not going to be where they don’t want me,” said Garcia, who recently quit the American-based PGA TOUR, which has suspended members signing up for the LIV events including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed.
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