Aussie Smith shatters mark to win PGA Tournament of Champions

By: AFP      Published: 08:35 AM, 10 Jan, 2022
Cameron Smith of Australia celebrates with the trophy
Cameron Smith of Australia celebrates with the trophy. AFP

Australia's Cameron Smith outdueled top-ranked Jon Rahm down the stretch Sunday to win the PGA Tournament of Champions in record-shattering fashion, firing a final-round eight-under par 65.

The 28-year-old from Brisbane finished with the lowest 72-hole tournament score in US PGA Tour history, shooting 34-under 258 on the par-73 Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii.

"We were trying to get it to 35-under," Smith said. "Missed it by one but I'll take the W."

Rahm fired a 66 to finish second on 259 with Australian Matt Jones third on 260 after matching the 18-hole course record with a 61.

All three beat the old PGA 72-hole record low score in relation to par in a 72-hole event, the 31-under by South African Ernie Els at Kapalua in the 2003 Tournament of Champions.

Last-pair partners Smith and Rahm traded birdies like boxers exchanging punches down the back nine.

Rahm sank a 14-foot birdie putt at the par-3 11th to pull within a stroke and both birdied the 13th, 14th and par-5 15th as the drama built with pars for each at 16 and 17 and birdies for both at the par-5 18th.

"Unreal round, something I'll never forget for sure," Smith said.

"It was intense. Jonny and I played well all day and Matty was playing well in the group in front of us."

Rahm was stunned after the round that he wasn't celebrating a victory.

"It feels really strange to shoot seven-under and almost be complaining because it should have ben a lot lower," Rahm said. "Every reason to be smiling but one.

"It's a weird feeling. I played great golf, I shot a low score, shot 33-under, and I still lost by one.

"Bittersweet moment. I lost. I had a lot of chances I could have converted."

World number 22 Smith, a 2020 Masters runner-up, claimed his fourth US PGA Tour victory, having taken the 2017 and 2021 pairs titles in New Orleans and the 2020 Sony Open in Hawaii.

Smith, who played his final 51 holes without a bogey, was just shy of the green in two at the 18th while Rahm gave himself 54 feet for eagle.

Smith rolled the ball 3 1/2 feet short of the cup while Rahm was one foot right of the cup. Rahm tapped in for birdie to briefly grab a share of the lead one final time but Smith followed by sinking his birdie putt for the victory.

Rahm and Smith shared the lead with a five-stroke edge on the rest of the field when the day began.

Smith sank a birdie putt from just outside five feet at the fourth to grab the lead alone and both Rahm and Smith tapped in for birdies at the par-5 fifth.

The Aussie rolled in a 23-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth to seize a two-stroke edge and each birdied the par-5 ninth.

A 62-61 weekend by Jones

Jones birdied six of the first 10 holes, eagled from 85 yards in the fairway at the par-4 13th, sank a three-foot eagle putt at the par-5 15th and holed a 51-foot birdie putt at 17 but was never better than two adrift of the lead despite an unprecedented 62-61 weekend.

"If you told me I would have shot 32-under I would have been more than happy to sit in the clubhouse and let everyone play and see what happens," Jones said.

World number two Collin Morikawa could have overtaken Rahm for the top ranking with a top-three finish. His closing 62, his PGA career low, left him sharing fifth with fellow Americans Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger on 267.

Reigning British Open champion Morikawa birdied seven of the first 10 holes, added a nine-foot birdie putt at 14 and a 10-footer for eagle at 15 then closed with a birdie.

"It's huge," Morikawa said of his strong finish. "I took a lot of time off this winter. I needed time to reset."

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AFP

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