Cameron Smith defeats Anirban Lahiri & Paul Casey to win the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Cameron Smith defeats Anirban Lahiri & Paul Casey
On Monday, Cameron Smith won the biggest tournament of his career, the Players Championship, which was marred by storm delays and near-freezing conditions but ended in brilliant sunlight at TPC Sawgrass. – Cameron Smith defeats Anirban Lahiri & Paul Casey
He is the fifth Australian to win the PGA Tour’s premier event, and he takes home $3.6 million, golf’s richest reward.
Smith had ten birdies in a six-under-par 66 to finish on 13 under par in Florida, one stroke ahead of India’s Anirban Lahiri.
Paul Casey of England pushed Smith with a 69 to finish third on 11 under.
“I just finished a fantastic round of golf in challenging circumstances in Sawgrass. With one bogey and a few breaks that didn’t go my way, I shot 69 “Casey, 44, expressed his thoughts.
“You have to give Cam credit for his outstanding golf performance. This competition was won by him. There was no way he could lose it; he simply won it, and you have to respect that.”
Smith, who lives in nearby Jacksonville and has more support, sank four consecutive birdie putts to surge free of the field, then a fifth at his sixth hole to move to 12 under.
However, on the par-four seventh, Casey rolled in his first birdie putt to pull within two strokes of Smith, who bogeyed.
On the par-five ninth, Smith carded his third consecutive bogey, while Casey birdied for the second time, as both players started the back nine on nine-under.
American Keegan Bradley, who lives in Jacksonville, was putting pressure on the field with four birdies from the ninth to get to 10 under, while Scotland’s Russell Knox, who also lives there, birdied three of his first four holes to get to nine under before fading with bogeys at the fifth and seventh.
Anirban Lahiri, the round-three leader, was at 10 under par after seven holes, but a double bogey on the par-three eighth hole seemed to doom the Indian, who is rated 322nd in the world. He responded with an eagle on the 11th to come back into contention at 11 under.
Smith, on the other hand, was on a birdie binge, holing four straight from the 10th to get to 13 under and put some distance between himself and the field.
Casey was still in contention, having birdied the 11th and 12th holes to move to 11 under par, but his luck ran out on the par-five 16th. His ball landed up in a divot after a monster drive, stopping him from going for the green in two, despite the threat of water to the right of the green.
“It was the finest tee shot I’ve hit on that hole all week,” Casey remarked. “I believed the door was open because Cameron had hit it into the trees. I really wanted to go for the green, but there were just too many unknowns and hazards.
“Don’t you need a little bit of luck now and then? Wasn’t that a stroke of bad luck? I wanted to break free from that falsehood, but it felt too dangerous. Trying to go for it would have been brave, but perhaps foolhardy.”
Casey and Smith both had to settle for par, and Smith extended his advantage even further with a fantastic birdie on the famed par-three 17th after smashing his tee shot to four feet, though he admitted: “If I said I was aiming there, I’d be lying. I was shooting 10 feet to the left of where it hit the ground.”
Lahiri, who was in the group behind, birdied the 17th to close the gap to two, and he stood on the 18th fairway watching Smith shoot a short putt for par after hitting his second from the trees into the water.
That left Lahiri needing a birdie to force a play-off, but he was obviously frustrated with his approach, which came up short of the green, and Smith could finally rejoice when his birdie chip came up a foot short of the hole.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” the 28-year-old remarked. “One of these big ones seemed to be the next logical step for me.
“I’d knocked a few times and felt it was finally my turn. I’m playing the greatest golf I’ve ever played, hitting a lot of good shots and refusing to give up.”
A stormy week with a bright finish – Cameron Smith defeats Anirban Lahiri & Paul Casey
The 40th anniversary of the first Players Championship at the magnificent purpose-built Stadium Course will be remembered for a long time.
The first round alone took 54 hours to complete due to five inches of rain and thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday, forcing fans to be evacuated off the course.
The strong winds that drove away the storms that had caused Saturday’s start to be delayed wreaked havoc, with 35mph gusts contributing to high scoring for anyone unfortunate enough to be out there. Sunday’s game began in temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius, some 25 degrees lower than the practice days.
The top ten players on the leaderboard had all gone out in the morning wave on Thursday after the second round ended.
“I haven’t seen this great a gap between morning and afternoon waves in a good few years,” England’s Lee Westwood, who was among the later starters and so played in the worst conditions, said on Twitter, echoing the sentiments of many others in his half of the draw.
In the first round, he shot a one-over 73, but in the wind on Saturday, he blasted an 80.
The tournament was pushed to a Monday finish for the first time since 2005, and the eighth time overall, due to weather delays. March was the month with the most Monday finishes. For 12 years, The Players was hosted in May before returning to its original date in 2019.
On Monday, the rain returned briefly, but the final round was largely played in warm, sunny conditions, as Smith won his fifth PGA Tour title, moving up to sixth in the world rankings and joining Australian winners Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Greg Norman (1994), Adam Scott (2004), and Jason Day (2016).