Australian golfer Cameron Smith has won The Players Championship in Florida, claiming the biggest cash prize in golf.
Smith’s win at the tournament that is unofficially recognised as the ‘fifth major’ earnt him the biggest payday of his career – $3.6 million ($A5m), finishing one stroke ahead of India’s Anirban Lahiri after a stunning final round.
Smith finished 13-under for the tournament, rampaging through the final day with a six-under 66, making up two stroke on Lahiri to claim the victory.
The mulleted golf star is the fifth Aussie to claim The Players Championship following Greg Norman (1994), Steve Elkington (1997), Adam Scott (2004) and Jason Day (2016).
As a result of the win, the 28-year-old is now guaranteed entry into The Players Championship for the next five years and entry into all four majors for the next three years. Smith will also rise to number six in the world rankings.
Smith, who lives 10 minutes away from the TPC Sawgrass course in Florida, started the final round with four birdies to move into contention. He looked to have victory wrapped up with a stunning shot to the island green on the famous par three 17th, where he tapped in for birdie and extended his lead to three shots.
On the 18th hole, a wayward tee shot went right and into the trees which forced Smith to chip out of the rough as he hit the ball across the fairway and into the water.
Smith recovered with an epic fourth-shot wedge that allowed him to tap in for bogey and claim victory.
Smith’s shot into the water brought back memories of fellow Aussie Adam Scott’s 2004 The Players Championship victory after he also found the water on the 18th hole but held on for victory.
“I thought the shot was actually going to come out quite soft because it was in amongst some pine straw, and it actually come out really nice,” Smith said when describing his shot on the 18th.
“I just thought it was going to come out tumbling and just roll out onto the fairway. It was unfortunate but held it together. And great up-and-down.”
It was an emotional victory for Smith who, after not seeing him family for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had his mother Sharon and sister Melisa at the course to witness his amazing win.
“It was unreal (having them there),” Smith said.
“I haven’t seen them for two-and-a-half years. Golf really took a back seat the last couple of weeks and it was nice to get this for them.”
“I didn’t spend much time at the golf course last week, I spent a lot of time here this week obviously but it was so nice. It’s really nice to have them here, nice to give mum a hug.”
Former PGA Tour pro Paul Gow labelled Smith’s win as ‘out of this world’, saying that his mental resolve is just one factor that makes the Australian a major-winner in the future.
“He’s been one of those players since he’s been on Tour that’s got better and better every year and he’s finetuned every part of his game,” Gow told foxsports.com.au
“We always knew he had a good short game and his putting, but everything else has got better. His mental application of the game … it just shows he’s come of age. He can be a major champion.”
Following the victory, Smith said he would celebrate with a ‘few beers’ and a ‘good sleep’.
“It‘s obviously been a long week. I’m sure there will be a few beers around the fire tonight, but I can’t wait for a good sleep,” he said.