Cameron Smith made his place in history on the Old Course, a Sunday stunner at St Andrews that sent the Australian to his first major after beating Rory McIlroy to win the British Open.
The stage was set for McIlroy to end his eight-year drought in the Majors and conclude a weeklong celebration at the home of golf at the 150th Open.
Smith started the back nine with five straight birdies and stole the show with more clutch moments at the end. His 8-under 64 was the lowest final round by a champion, having played at St Andrews, the 30-time golf’s oldest champion.
Smith won with a shot over Cameron Young, who had a 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole. It wasn’t enough, and neither was it something McIlroy could muster.
He could not make a put early. He couldn’t kill it long enough. His last good chance was a 15-foot birdie attempt on the dreaded road hole on the 17th, and it missed on the left.
Smith, who saved the draw with a 10-foot putt in 17th, was leading on the 18th green with his tee-shot. From 80 feet away, his pace toward the slope and cup was perfect, leaving a tap-in birdie to finish at 20-under 268.
Smith equaled the major championship record, last reached by Dustin Johnson at the 2020 Masters held in November.
McIlroy needed an eagle to tie him up, and there was no chance of his putt through the Valley of the Sinn. He missed the birdie and finished third after scoring 70 runs.
Smith is the first Australian to win at St Andrews since Klay Nagle in 1960, when he topped the People’s Choice for a rising American star named Arnold Palmer.
That’s what McIlroy is now, and there was an energy with the hums and hollows of the Old Course all day, all waiting to celebrate McIlroy as an Open champion at St Andrews.
He gave them little to please – two birdies, 16 pars, more disappointment.