Smith spoiled McIlroy’s party at the 150th edition of The Open at St. Andrews on Sunday. After starting the final 4-shot round behind McIlroy and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, Smith had a superb nine, making five consecutive Birds awarded an 8-under 64 and winning Clarett Jug.
Smith is only the third winner to shoot 64 or better in the final round of The Open, according to ESPN stats and info. Henrik Stenson (63 at Royal Troon in 2016) and Greg Norman (64 at Royal St. George’s in 1993) were the other two. Smith’s under-20 score matches Stenson’s total of 72 holes in 2016 for the lowest score in open history.
Cameron Young, a rookie on the PGA Tour, went up the 18th hole to finish single-handedly in second, one shot behind Smith. McIlroy, who was trying to win his fifth major championship, finished in a disappointing third at 18 under. It’s now been a full eight seasons since he won his last major at the 2014 PGA Championship in Valhalla.
McIlroy can at least take solace in not losing this major; Smith won it in one of the best final rounds in the history of the Grand Slam. Clearly McIlroy was behind the crowd.
McIlroy hasn’t played badly and still has a nice cushion going back nine. He just didn’t give himself enough opportunities for the birds and could only match Smith with Pars.
Here are five notes from the final round at St. Andrews:
Along with Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay and Hovland, Smith was arguably among the best players in the world to not have a major tournament win before Sunday. Ranked sixth in the official world golf rankings. He has now won six times on the PGA Tour and four more times around the world.
Smith had a chance to snatch a 54-hole lead on Saturday, but his usually dependable racket let him down. After that, he told reporters, “The golf gods were not with me today.”
That was certainly not the case for Smith on Sunday. He cut McIlroy’s lead to 3 shots when he took the turn. Remarkably, by the 14th hole, Smith had advanced by one shot. He had five sparrows straight starting on the tenth day.
One of the best rackets in the world, Smith drained the 5-foot pitches on the No. 10, 16 feet on no. 11, 11 feet on a number. 12 and 18 feet on a number. 13. Then in the fifth round of the fourth standoff, Smith nearly made an 87-foot eagle throw and tapped it for a birdie and one shot.
Smith is the only player over the past 20 years to poke the top five of the back nine holes in the final round of a major tournament, according to ESPN stats and info.
Smith put the field away when he nearly drove the green on the 18th hole. From a distance of 75 feet, he blasted off to two feet and made his eighth bird of the round.
He became the first player to win his first major in St. Andrews overcame a final-round deficit since Dick Burton in 1939.
Smith apparently reached The Players in March, when he won $3.6 million, the richest purse winner in the history of the PGA Tour. He became the fifth player to win both players and the lead in the same season, joining Jack Nicklaus (1978), Hal Sutton (1983), Tiger Woods (2001) and Martin Kaymer (2014).
McIlroy has suffered a lot of heartache since winning his last major title at the 2014 PGA Championship in Valhalla. He had close calls at the Masters, The Open in 2018 and the US Open at Tory Pines last year. It was the ninth time he had finished in the top five at a major tournament since his last win.
The loss could end on Sunday, with McIlroy having a 4-shot start and a 3-shot cushion on the turn, taking the sting the most.
“[I’m] McIlroy said disappointedly, “Yes, I felt like I didn’t do much wrong today, but I didn’t do much right either. It’s just one of those days I played a really controlled round of golf. I did what I felt I needed out of the way to benefit.” One of the easiest holes – around the turn… 9, 12, 14. If you’ve made birds there from good spots, it’s probably a different story.
“But look, I was defeated by a better player this week. 20 below par for four rounds of golf here is really, really impressive play, especially going out and shooting 64 today to get it done.”
Again, most of the galleries were behind McIlroy. Smith and everyone else probably felt vulnerable compared to him. But Rory’s roar did not come on Sunday.
Playing one set behind Smith, McIlroy made a fourth-tier flyer for 10th to move up to 18-under. He didn’t make another bird the rest of the way.
McIlroy narrowly missed hitting a 14-foot bird on the twelfth before sinking nearly 61 feet on the thirteenth. McIlroy didn’t take advantage of par-5 14th. His second shot from 248 yards was short of the green, so he shot off the fairway to 18 feet. Another almost made a mistake leaving him with a disappointing equation. McIlroy also closely missed a 28-foot tally on a number. 16 and 22 feet on No. 17.
“Yes, I’ll regret a few wasted ones slipping,” McIlroy said. “But it was a good week overall. I can’t despair too much for the way this year has been and still is this year. I play some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. So it’s just a matter of keeping knocking on the door and eventually one will open up.” “.
McIlroy finished in the top ten in each of the four majors this season. He finished second in the Masters, eighth in the PGA Championship and tied for fifth in the US Open.
“Yes, of course, not only is his results this year, but he came very close and played really well this year,” said Hovland, who finished fourth with a 14 under-14 draw. “But at the end of the day, he keeps playing the way he does, and he’s going to have one soon, at least I think at least. However, yes, it’s tough. You have to finish it.”
The next generation of good golf
Smith, 28, is the sixth consecutive winner of a major tournament for a player in his 20s. Matt Fitzpatrick (27) won the US Open, Justin Thomas (29) won the PGA Championship and Scotty Scheffler (26) won the Masters title. Last year, Colin Morikawa (25) won the Open and John Ram (27) won the US Open.
If you can pull off Phil Mickelson’s unexpected win in the 2021 PGA Championship, in which he becomes the oldest major champion at 50, it would be seven in a row. Hideki Matsuyama won the 2021 Masters Championship at the age of 29.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, players in their 20s haven’t won six majors in a row from 1921 to 1923, when Walter Hagen, Jane Sarrazin, Arthur Havers and Bobby Jones came together to do so.
Cameron Young is real
Throughout most of the week, with so much attention on McIlroy and Woods, you might have barely noticed that PGA Tour rookie Cameron Young was in the fray. But the golfer from New York hit less than par every round, including 7 under 65 on Sunday. He had an 18th-ranked Eagle at 14 to finish second on his own at 19 under.
After finishing in a tie for third place in the PGA Championship, Young became only the second player since Morikawa to finish third in his first appearance in those events. Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park and the 2021 Open at Royal St. George.
“It might just hurt a little bit worse to go up one short shot,” Young said. “If you lose by eight, you don’t really care. But, yeah, you played well [on Sunday]. I was going to sign up for 65 this morning. And watching Cameron film what he did, it was pretty cool.
do st. Andrews too easy?
R&A learned that St. Andrews, “the home of golf,” would be vulnerable to sophisticated equipment and the best players in the world, especially if the winds weren’t blowing hard over the North Sea.
The wind didn’t blow much over the last two rounds, so the scores were very, very low. Total 20- Below Smith is the lowest for an opening in St. Andrews. The mean score was 71,619. There were 929 birds and 29 eagles.
“I think we’re definitely striving very far for the track, probably, if I had to guess,” Zander Shaveli said. “Maybe it’s too assertive. I’m not too sure, to be completely honest.
R&A poked the pins as hard as it could, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
“The way they made things difficult was a bit tricky in my mind,” Shaveli said. “Some of those pins they put in—I mean, if you were on the right side, you’d have 30ft by 40ft. But if you try to hit it close to you and get greedy as I did [Saturday]There’s no grass on some of those slopes.
“[Sunday] It was softer. The ball was kind of staying on the ground. [Saturday] There was no friction. It almost felt like a USGA event going back on the 15th or 16th.”