• Staff Writers

Cheers for Cam Smith, first Australian man to win British Open in 19 years


Australian golf star Cameron Smith has produced a spectacular fightback, featuring five straight birdies, to win the landmark 150th British Open at St Andrews.


Smith chased down home hope Rory McIlroy to become the first Australian to claim the famous Claret Jug since Greg Norman at Royal St George's in 1993 and first men's major winner in 7 years.


Choking back tears after winning the coveted claret urn, Smith said:

"Ah, geez, what a week. I'm going to fall apart here, I know.
"All the names on there, every player that's been at the top of their game has won this championship.
"Yeah, it's pretty cool to be on there. It really hasn't sunk in yet. I don't think it will for a few weeks. Yeah, it's just unreal."

Only half joking, Cameron Smith said he planned on drinking the Claret Jug 20 times over after capturing golf's oldest and most cherished trophy with an extraordinary finish at St Andrews:

"I'm definitely going to see how many beers fit in this thing."

"I'll probably have about 20 Claret Jugs," he said, estimating the spoils would fit "two cans of beer".

"To be honest, I'm really tired. It's been a long week, so I'd be surprised if I make it past 10 or 11 tonight."

Showing nerves of steel, the 28-year-old closed with a record eight-under-par 64 on Sunday to capture his elusive maiden major championship after two near misses at the Masters.


He won by a shot from American debutant Cameron Young, who eagled the last for a 65 to force Smith to hole a clutch two-foot birdie putt to deny the American a four-hole playoff.


McIlroy finished a further stroke back at 18 under following a final-round 70 and said he was 'obviously disappointed':

"It's just one of those days where I played a really controlled round of golf. I did what I felt like I needed to just apart from (not) capitalising on the easier holes around the turn, nine, 12, 14.
"If I had made the birdies there from good positions, it probably would have been a different story.
"But, look, I got beaten by a better player this week - 20 under par for four rounds of golf around here is really, really impressive playing, especially to go out and shoot 64 today to get it done."

Indeed, Smith's four-round total of 20 under equalled Henrik Stenson's 72-hole Open scoring record and bettered Tiger Woods' record tally at St Andrews in 2000 by a stroke.


Smith was fulsome in his praise of his supporters:

"I want to thank my team back there for all their hard work. All the hard work we've done the last couple of years has really started to pay off and this one definitely makes it worth it.
"To the fans, I had a lot of support out there - especially the Aussie guys. It seemed like there were a lot out there.
"You guys really kept me going out there. You kept me plugging away - this one's for Oz!"

Smith's only lament was not having his golf-loving, scratch-playing father Des in town to celebrate with him. Smith said of Des, who introduced Smith to golf at the Wantima Club in Brisbane as a toddler:

"My dad was actually meant to come over, and he pulled out in the last minute, basically.
"I really wish he was here too. It would have been such a cool week, even without this (trophy), to be at the home of golf.
"Dad loves his golf as well. It would have been awesome.
"Actually, I don't have any family here."

Sir Nick Faldo has led the awe-struck tributes to Australia's new British Open golf champ Cameron Smith, hailing the Queenslander as a "legend" for his record-breaking triumph at St Andrews.


Speaking on Sky TV's coverage, Faldo, England's three-time winner of his home major and the 1990 champion at St Andrews, reckoned that Smith had achieved the sport's "holy grail" with his flawless, come-from-behind triumph in the 150th Open.

"It's extra special to win it here. Basically, you are defined as different type of champion because you've won at St Andrews.
"To win here really is the holy grail, especially this landmark one. Everybody will know and remember who won the 150th Open at St Andrews. Congratulations Cam - I'm in shock!
"I'm obviously very proud of that fact (of being a St Andrews Open winner) too. But Cam's had a hard time with (being away from Australia during) COVID, didn't see his mum, dad and sister for a couple of years but he's battled away."

Sam Pinfold, Smith's trusted Kiwi bagman of seven years said:

"Just shows his massive belief, his confidence.
"It's not cocky; it's not arrogance; it's a belief in his game. He's such a competitor.
"That's the Aussie Queenslander; think he drew a lot from that. He's never really pinned as a favourite or as one of the big dogs; and he loves to fight.
"Put him in a fight - three, four (shots) back - and he's going to step up his game and go for it.
"Just so proud of him. Deserves it; such a competitor. Just the attitude he's got, never gives up. So much guts. The whole back nine was just flawless."

Smith is Australia's first men's major winner since Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.


His magical triumph came after the Queenslander started the final round four strokes behind Northern Ireland's McIlroy and Norway's Viktor Hovland.


In etching his name in the history books after winning golf's oldest and greatest championship, Smith also becomes the first player to complete The Players-British Open double since the legendary Jack Nicklaus in 1978.


Smith is Australia's fifth winner of the Open after Norman, who also reigned at Turnberry in 1986, Ian Baker Finch (1991), Kel Nagle (1960) and five-times champion Peter Thomson (1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1965).


Nagle and Thomson are the only other Australians to have won the Open on the Old Course at the home of golf.


Smith's finishing 64 is the equal-lowest-ever final round from an Open champion and matched Norman's 64 on the par-71 layout at Sandwich in 1993.


After a luckless third round with the putter, when he surrendered a two-shot halfway lead, Smith promised a Sunday birdie blitz in a desperate bid to reel in McIlroy and Hovland.


He dragged the overnight deficit from four shots back to just one after steadily reaching the turn in two under for his round, then jagged three birdies in a row to open the front nine.


But, so stealthy was his back-nine attack, that it wasn't until Smith drained his fourth straight birdie on No.13 to snatch a share of the lead that McIlroy probably even realised he was being hunted down.


If there was any doubt, though, McIlroy would have known after Smith waved his magic wand once again to two-putt for a 25-metre birdie from off the green on the par-five 14th to seize the outright lead.


While McIlroy, like Smith on Saturday, couldn't buy a putt, the Australian produced a brilliant scrambling par save on the treacherous 17th Road Hole to remain in control.


Not even Young's sublime eagle at the last could then deny Smith, who calmly holed out under unbearable tension to break Australia's 29-year Open title drought.


With Minjee Lee winning the US Women's Open last month, Smith's victory also completed the first Australian men's and women's major championship double in a calendar year.


Smith's memorable triumph comes a decade after great mate and fellow Queenslander Adam Scott suffered the heartbreak of blowing a four-shot lead with four holes to play to give the Claret Jug to Ernie Els at Royal Lytham and St Annes.


Scott suffered more disappointment on Sunday when, after surging into a share of fifth and to within five strokes of the lead, he made double bogey on the par-four 12th en route to a closing one-under 71.


The former world No.1 never recovered and had to settle for another admirable tie for 15th at 10 under par in his 22nd consecutive Open.


Fellow Australians Lucas Herbert and Anthony Quayle, on his impressive debut, also shared 15th with Scott after signing off with stylish rounds of 67.


Min Woo Lee was a further stroke back in joint-21st following a six-birdie 68 finish.


HOW THE AUSSIES FARED AT THE 150TH BRITISH OPEN: 

268 (67-64-73-64): Cameron Smith - winner

278 (72-65-70-71): Adam Scott - tied 15th

278 (74-69-68-67): Anthony Quayle - tied 15th

279 (69-69-73-68): Min Woo Lee - tied 21st

278 (70-68-73-67): Lucas Herbert - tied 15th

284 (72-71-71-70): Jason Scrivener - tied 53rd

284 (68-72-72-72): Brad Kennedy - tied 53rd

Matt Griffin, Marc Leishman, Dimi Papadatos, Jed Morgan - missed cut