Brendan Steele suffered a late collapse as victory in the 2020 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club went to Cameron Smith on the first play-off hole.
Steele, a three-time PGA TOUR winner, was in line for his first win since the 2008 Safeway Open when holding a two-shot lead with two holes remaining on the picturesque Hawaii Island course.
But an untimely bogey on the penultimate hole, with victory in his sights, cost the American dearly as Australian rivals Smith sunk a closing birdie to set up a play-off. Steele then bogeyed the first extra hole as his choke was complete.
It was a final day to forget for Steele, who had started the fourth round with a three-shot lead over Smith. But he finished with a one-over par round with a two-under for Smith enough to earn that play-off that he ultimately won.
“Everything that could go wrong went wrong today,” was the honest assessment from a disappointed Steele after losing the play-off. He was not wrong either with his game falling apart under the pressure of getting across the line.
Cameron Smith at the Sony Open
It was Australian talent Smith’s first PGA TOUR win since his maiden success in the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, who he won along with Swede Jonas Blixt—also courtesy of play-off.
This was, however, his first solo success on the tour and boy did he enjoy it for a number of reasons.
“Just had to hang in there. No one was playing good golf today, it seemed like,” said Smith, who is now guaranteed a spot in the Masters at Augusta. “Just hung in there, and what do you know?”
“That’s been one I’ve wanted to tick off for a long time, to finally say I’ve won an event by myself. It’s quite good.”
Sony Open win dedicated to Australia
Smith dedicated the success to the people of his home nation which has been decimated by bushfires in recent weeks with his own family directly affected.
“Australia is doing it tough right now and the focus is probably not on my golf, for good reason,” said Smith, whose uncle lost his home in the bushfires. “But hopefully it gave a few people reason to smile for a moment or two.
“Uncle Warren drove back to his place the other day and what he found was quite devastating. I saw the photos and the only thing he had left was a little shed that him and his son built a few months back.
“We’re a tight-knit family and it hit everyone pretty hard. It’s good to do something good, and hopefully puts a smile on their face.”
Smith and some of his fellow PGA Tour stars—including compatriot Marc Leishman—had already committed to a percentage of their prize money earnings from the Sony Open to been donated to the victims of the bushfires in Australia.