Cameron Smith wins Open after shaking Rory McIlroy with stunning 64

It will be small consolation for Rory McIlroy that Cameron Smith produced a grand championship finish for the ages to win the 150th Open. McIlroy found himself wide out of the Valley of Sin with a corner in hand, needing to find a two to join Smith in the playoffs. The crowd offered an impromptu roar in the vain hope of a sporting fairy tale. How did this happen?

There was to be no miracle moment. McIlroy’s wait for a fifth major success will rumble on through 2023. Salt was rubbed into McIlroy’s wounds by not even finishing second here. An eagle from the 72nd hole by Cameron Young, who was making an outstanding Open debut, earned him second place. Smith’s 20 under par beat Young by one and a sad but magnanimous McIlroy by two.

It’s hard to argue that McIlroy did much wrong in the fourth round, except perhaps not capitalizing on opportunities appropriately. He will be stung, for example, by failing to birdie the 9 or the 14. It was not the right time for McIlroy to deliver a round of the St Andrews Open not in the 60s for the first time. It was just that 70, two under par, was insufficient to keep pace with the inflexible Smith. Australia’s back nine of 30 is the lowest score in an indoor half on Sunday by a champion in Open history.

The 28-year-old is no longer one of the best golfers of this generation to never win a major. He played with a fearlessness on day four that makes him a worthy champion of such a landmark event. Smith, who won the Players Championship in March, is enjoying the time of his life.

With McIlroy and Viktor Hovland in the final group, it was the Norwegian who blinked first. Hovland three put in 4th which gave McIlroy a one shot lead. McIlroy comfortably birdied the par-five 5th to double his advantage.

Hovland was playing timidly. The pressure on McIlroy suddenly came from elsewhere. Smith birdied the 10th and 11th to move within one. Almost immediately, McIlroy left a 126-foot putt on the 10 within kicking range. The two-shot margin of error was restored, with McIlroy now 18 under. Smith retaliated by collecting another shot in the 12th. Smith, now five cents for his round, posed a serious threat.

This challenge from the Brisbane native intensified with a fourth consecutive birdie, this time from 15 feet. The head was now shared. Smith was inspired, McIlroy aware of what was going on in the group up front. Smith’s 19 under faced McIlroy’s 18 under as the former birdied the 14th.

A discouraged Rory McIlroy on the 18th hole.
A discouraged Rory McIlroy on the 18th hole. Photography: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock

Smith, it seemed incredible to remember, had started the day four strokes behind McIlroy and Hovland. A 74 from Hovland meant he was tied for fourth with Tommy Fleetwood, who signed with a 67.

Young, meanwhile, showed frustration despite signing for a 65. “It probably hurts a little more to miss a shot,” he said. “If you lose by eight, you don’t really care.” The 25-year-old’s curious major year saw two missed cuts, a tied third and a second.

Smith cut his practice on the 15th, but managed to save par from a favorite raw lie. McIlroy needed to make short work on the par five 14th but couldn’t after failing to reach the green in two. Smith recorded a two-putt single par on the 16th and refused to falter at the iconic Road Hole despite missing the green with his approach. McIlroy’s last realistic hope came at this penultimate hole after a majestic iron from 18 feet. As the birdie putt passed, Smith had one hand and four fingers on the Claret Jug.

Brian Harman and Dustin Johnson tied sixth at 13 under. Bryson DeChambeau joined Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth one stroke further. Adam Scott’s 71 left him 10 adrift of Smith, but there was praise for Smith. “He’s tough and he picked up his game quickly,” Scott said of his fellow Aussie. “He learned to play golf very well, very quickly. I think his mind is a big asset, as is his putter. “I don’t know if you can say it was inevitable that he had an opportunity like this but based on talent? Yes.”

Filippo Celli, the 21-year-old Italian, earned low amateur honors at five cents. After finishing three strokes short of that tally, LIV rebel Sergio García made it clear he didn’t particularly enjoy his week. The St Andrews Open in 2030 looks like a bridge too far from García. “Probably difficult,” he said of an appearance eight years from now. “And the way everyone reacts to us, probably even tougher. Things have an end. It’s like that. »

Speaking to media in his native country, the Spaniard added that he will be withdrawing from the formerly European DP World Tour which will rule him out of future Ryder Cups. García feels he was victimized in Europe after signing up for Series LIV. Feverish speculation continues to link European Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson to this controversial area. With Greg Norman leading the Saudi-backed operation, which McIlroy is so vehemently opposed to, there is a joke somewhere about Australians causing the Northern Irishman grief. Now is not the time to say it.

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