150th Open Championship - Wizard of Oz Cameron Smith is the king of the Old Course

‘Everything has led to this’ boasted the official slogan of the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
Cameron Smith has won the 2022 Open Championship. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)Cameron Smith has won the 2022 Open Championship. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Cameron Smith has won the 2022 Open Championship. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Given the defining moments the championship has created down the decades, that was quite the bold statement to make.

Talk in some quarters in the build up to the event was of the Old Course being taken to pieces by the big hitters, exposing frailties and flaws in the Fife venue.

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Those behind the slogan could well have ended up looking rather foolish if the tournament had become little more than an embarrassing pitch and putt exercise.

The home of golf needed to deliver and prove it could create challenges of its own.

It did, and then some, the final day’s play a fitting end to what was a sensational major.

It wasn’t about power, Sunday was simply about skill and precision.

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The overnight leaderboard going into the final day was tantalising and headed by Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland.

The two carried a huge support with them as they went toe to toe on Saturday across the Old Course and all eyes were again on the pair when they arrived at the first tee on Sunday afternoon.

To catch them the supporting cast would need to somehow hit an incredible run of form from hole to hole.

Australia’s Cameron Smith did just that, overturning the disadvantage on his way to his first major title.

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Both McIlroy and Hovland started steady enough with four pars in their opening three holes until the first bogey fell the way of Hovland on four.

It was to be the start of a round which just never got going for the Norwegian.

Ahead of them Tommy Fleetwood and Adam Scott were amongst those finding a few birdies and all of a sudden the top of the leaderboard was starting to look a little bunched.

McIlroy sunk a birdie of his own on five, though, and his lead was two after Hovland failed to land his.

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Hovland’s challenge was failing to kick-start and instead it was American Cameron Young who was eating into McIlroy’s advantage.

He made birdie on three, four, five and seven to reach -15 while McIlroy was on -17.

McIlroy hit the turn with a two shot lead and had a chasing pack of three, Hovland, Smith and Young chasing him down.

Australian Smith started to look like McIlroy’s nearest challenger when he pulled himself to within one with back to back birdies on 10 and 11.

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But no sooner had Smith reduced the deficit, McIlroy’s birdie on 10 again saw him pull two clear.

Hovland took his time getting going, waiting until the 12th before holing his first birdie of the day.

The expected shootout between Hovland and McIlroy failed to materialise and was to be Smith who was the Northern Irishman’s closest challenger.

The winner of The Players Championship in March rattled off birdies on 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 to overtake McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard.

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Smith’s best result in a major was a tie for second at the Masters in 2020 and now he found himself in the driving seat at the home of golf.

McIlroy was within one but couldn’t ignite his back nine.

Smith had a tough par save from seven foot on 17 with holes rapidly running out for McIlroy.

A birdie on 18 put Smith within touching distance of the title on -20, McIlroy knowing he needed an eagle to force a play-off.

His drive was short of the green leaving him with a tough chip for eagle to force a play-off.

It was too much work to do, his effort bouncing wide of the hole and handing the trophy to a worthy winner.