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Australian golf star Cameron Smith scored the biggest victory of his career by winning the Players Championship in Florida in an extraordinary and record-breaking fashion.
Smith hit a birdie-filled and dramatic six-under-par 66 to record a steely one-shot victory at TPC Sawgrass and join a who’s who of great golfers on the honor roll.
When asked how he got to where he was today, Smith no doubt confused the US media by referring to rugby league.
“Never give up,” Smith said.
“I grew up watching rugby league and watching the Queenslanders come from behind and even when it got tough they somehow managed to win. I think it’s sort of instilled in all of us.
Along with the prestige of winning the PGA Tour’s flagship event and the game’s fifth unofficial major, the 28-year-old pocketed a check for $3.6 million (A$5 million) and will move on to the second place in the FedExCup standings all season.
Smith’s rollercoaster round in the wild end of the tour on Monday after a weather-blighted week featured an unprecedented 10 birdies, including five in the first six holes.
But the victory was not without tension and drama, with Smith finding water on the last hole and needing an up and down bogey to fend off surprise third-round leader Anirban Lahiri.
Fittingly, he completed the best putting round in the tournament’s 49-year history.
Smith’s 101 putts for the 72 holes were the lowest of any winner in nearly half a century.
He joins fellow Australians Steve Elkington (1991 and 1997), Greg Norman (1994), Adam Scott (2004) and Jason Day (2016) on the famed honor roll.
Other champions include major winning legends Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“It’s huge. It’s going to take a while to sink in, I think,” Smith said.
The Queenslander choked up after describing the thrill of winning in front of his mum and sister, who were visiting Smith, who lives nearby in Jacksville Beach.
“I haven’t seen them in two years, so it’s really cool to have them here,” he said.
“My main priority was really spending time with them and golf was second for the last few weeks so it’s nice to see them and get the win for them.”
Smith’s latest triumph follows his victory at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January, when he won with a record 34 under par.
The Australian No.1 is set to break into the world’s top five for the first time ahead of next month’s Masters, the first major tournament of the year at Augusta National.