Cameron Smith wins Australian PGA Championship in playoff

Golf


There were times when Cameron Smith thought it wasn’t going to be his day before he finally clinched the Australian PGA Championship after two tense playoff holes.

Like when a pinpoint approach shot hit the flag stick and bounced 10 metres away.

Or when a rowdy fan was ejected for fake coughs, sneezes and heckles as he prepared his approach to the 18th hole.

But the unflappable and proud Queenslander – who stayed up late to watch his namesake lift the Rugby League World Cup trophy on Saturday – hung tough to do the same in a tense Australian PGA Championship finale.

The 24-year-old Smith engaged in a 20-hole skirmish with overnight leader Jordan Zunic on Sunday, overcoming a three-shot deficit to force a play-off and eventually win with a par on the second extra hole.

“He just said a few nasty things there telling me not to choke. I tried to play it off,” Smith said of the heckling on the 72nd hole.

“I guess he was from NSW.

“Earlier I hit the bottom of pin and that was a bit like, you know, am I not meant to win this thing.”

Smith had earlier edged in front, a superb wedge approach over trees giving him eagle on the 17th and an outright lead for the first time all tournament.

But a bogey on the last when he missed a putt from two metres gave Wollongong 25-year-old Zunic a lifeline as both men finished 18 under.

Both parred their repeat of the 18th, with a superb chip from a tough lie on the following sudden-death hole giving Smith the advantage.

Zunic’s three-metre effort lipped out while Smith made no mistake the second time to earn his first professional win in Australia and second overall to follow the Zurich Classic teams crown in New Orleans in May.

“It’s huge,” Smith said.

“I remember going there with dad. It was one of my goals to win one down here and being in Queensland makes it that bit more special.”

Smith won nearly $240,000 and an exemption on the European Tour until the end of 2019, a bonus he admitted he was unaware of.

But the Brisbane native and world No.86 said the biggest thing about winning was how it would help him attack next year’s US PGA tour after bursting onto the scene with a fourth in his major debut at the 2015 US Open.

“I know I have the game to be able to win over there and compete every week,” Smith said.

“But when your game’s not quite there your head can take a bit of a beating; you miss a couple of cuts and you’re thinking what I am doing.

“So you just stay really positive and commit to 100 per cent of every shot.”

South Australia’s Adam Bland completed a solid week of golf to finish one adrift of the leaders, while Marc Leishman surged with four late birdies to finish fourth at 14 under.

Ailing Masters champion Sergio Garcia drifted with a 74 to finish six under and 12 shots off the pace.



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