To win the Open Championship is special, to do it at St Andrews is the ultimate achievement in golf. And with a flawless final round of 64, Cameron Smith joined the ranks of greats such as Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in lifting the Claret Jug.
Remarkably, Smith began the day four shots behind leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland after shooting a one-over round of 73 on Saturday. And while his front nine holes on Sunday were good — he birdied the second and the fifth — the Australian’s back nine was the stuff of St Andrews legend.
The 2022 Players Championship winner hit five consecutive birdies from holes 10 to 14 to heap pressure on then-leader McIlroy. Smith’s approach play was impressive, but his putting was sensational — he judged every one of his green shots to perfection. With that golden run, he reached 19-under and took the lead outright. From that point on, the 28-year-old never looked back.
That’s not to say there weren’t high-pressure moments. But while he was playing to win his first major, Smith showed the composure of a serial champion. His 12-foot putt to save par on the 17th was nerveless and he closed out with another birdie on the final hole. And he needed it — his group partner Cameron Young three-putted the par four 18th to close with a round of 65, finishing second on 19-under.
For McIlroy, it was a solid, if unspectacular, final day. The Northern Irishman, who was hunting for his fifth major and a first since 2014, hit a bogey-free round of 70 including two birdies. He showed great consistency over the week but it just wasn’t to be. A near-miss with a birdie attempt on the 17th effectively ended his chances of catching Smith; he left himself too much to do on the final hole and finished third on 18 under.
Viktor Hofland, chasing his first major, never really got going. He finished 14-under, tied for fourth place with England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who hit 67 on Sunday.
The Silver Medal for best amateur went to Italy’s Filippo Celli who finished five-under after a final round of 71. The 21-year-old continued his excellent form after winning the European Amateur Championship in Spain in June.
But the headlines go to Smith. His previous best performance at a major was finishing runner-up at the Masters in 2020. He came close again at Augusta in April, finishing tied for third behind McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler. But based on this showing, the man with mullet has plenty more big wins ahead of him.
“To have the 150th Open here (at St Andrews) and to walk away with the win is something I’ve dreamed of. It’s just awesome,” he said, having been presented with the Claret Jug.
“I’m definitely going to find out how many beers fit in this thing, that’s for sure.”