The 150th playing of The Open Championship called for a final round worthy of the annals of history. Cameron Smith rose to the occasion and wrote his own chapter at the Old Course.
Smith used a run of five consecutive birdies to card an 8-under-par 64, overtake Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and win The Open by one stroke for his first major title Sunday at St. Andrews in Scotland.
The Australian posted a four-round score of 20-under 268, tying the major championship record for lowest score relative to par. Cameron Young, his playing partner, eagled the 18th hole to place second, with McIlroy finishing third two shots behind.
Smith fired a 64 Friday to take the 36-hole lead, but a 73 on Saturday sent him tumbling four shots behind McIlroy and Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
After two birdies on the front nine Sunday, Smith made a push after the turn with five straight at Nos. 10-14 to pass McIlroy and touch 19 under. He rolled in putts of 16, 11 and 18 feet at the 11th through 13th holes to tie McIlroy, then got up and down at the par-5 14th to grab the solo lead.
Smith’s strength became McIlroy’s weakness on Sunday. The crowd favorite two-putted all 18 holes, leaving several birdie opportunities behind him.
McIlroy’s bogey-free 70 was only good enough for third place at 18 under. He notched top-10 finishes at all four majors this year, but he couldn’t cure his major title drought dating to 2014.
Smith preserved his one-stroke lead with a par save at the par-4 17th, the “Road Hole.” His second shot missed short, and he had to putt around a pot bunker up onto the green to set up a 10-foot par putt.
Young, the PGA Tour rookie making his Open debut, drove the 18th green and drained a 17-foot eagle putt to turn up the pressure on Smith. The Australian got up and down for a short birdie, and McIlroy couldn’t pull out a magical eagle at No. 18.
Hovland went toe to toe with McIlroy Saturday, when they both shot rounds of 66 and took a four-shot co-lead. On Sunday, Hovland didn’t make a birdie until No. 12 and posted a 2-over 74. He tied for fourth with England’s Tommy Fleetwood (67).
Neither McIlroy nor Hovland made any big putts on the front nine, converting just one birdie between them. Hovland hit a poor approach shot at No. 4 and three-putted for bogey, making McIlroy the solo leader.
McIlroy capitalized on the next hole, a par 5, by reaching the green in two and landing a birdie while Hovland parred. McIlroy drove the green at the par-4 10th and two-putted for his second birdie to get to 18 under before Smith’s charge began.
Brian Harman (66) and Dustin Johnson (69) finished at 13 under, tied for sixth. Bryson DeChambeau (66), Jordan Spieth (68) and Patrick Cantlay (68) were tied for eighth at 12 under.
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana fired 65s early in the day to reach 11 under; they finished in a tie for 11th with South Africa’s Dean Burmester (66) and England’s Tyrrell Hatton (68).
–Field Level Media