Sports Desk, Jul 17 (EFE).- Australia’s Cameron Smith won the British Open in fine style on Sunday afternoon, putting his way to a 264-stroke, 20-under-par, victory that he snatched from Rory McIlroy at the cradle of golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, and claiming the Claret Jar at the 150th edition of the iconic tourney, the first majors win of his career.
Smith, who notched his sixth victory on the PGA Tour, started the day four strokes behind McIlroy, who ended up in third place with 270 strokes and -18, and Norway’s Viktor Hovland on the last day of the four-day Open after a bad third round in which he finished one over par.
But he recovered his equilibrium in time to vault to the win in an emotional and wide-open final round in which Hovland fell out of the running for the lead, finishing tied with Tommy Fleetwood for fourth at 274 strokes and -14, and Cameron Young from the US came in second with 269 strokes and -19.
Smith finished his fabulous final round with 64 strokes to put him -20, and that was enough to beat out Tiger Woods’ -19 finish at St. Andrews in 2000.
Although Smith and McIlroy had not really been in any kind of duel during the day, on the final hole the Aussie sank the crucial putt of his career, while the Northern Ireland native had had trouble all day with his short game, missing chances for birdie on Holes 16 and 17, along with an eagle chance on 18.
McIlroy had been the favorite going into the tourney and was four strokes ahead of Smith at the start on Sunday, but the Aussie wasn’t feeling any of that kind of pressure, which perhaps worked to his advantage.
And Smith really got hot during the round, something that is very unusual in the conservative golf usually played in high-stakes tourneys, shooting five birdies in a row on the back nine and moving handily past the fan-favorite.
It was McIlroy’s Open to lose, and must be a particularly bitter pill to swallow after winning four majors tourneys early in his career but garnering nothing of the kind over the past eight years. With his four-stroke lead, it appeared that he would, could and should have coasted to his fifth such win, which would have been a nice resurrection given that he was unable to play in the Open when it last came to St. Andrews seven years back after hurting himself playing pick-up soccer with pals.
Smith had surpassed McIlroy on Hole 13 and got to the top of the leader board on 14 with his fifth consecutive birdie.
Brian Harmon and Dustin Johnson came in tied for sixth place with 275 strokes and -13, while Jordan Spieth finished in the eighth spot with 276 strokes and -12.