World number three and reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith overcame a final round challenge and electrical storms to win the Australian PGA Championships for a third time Sunday by three strokes.
The 29-year-old was back on home soil after three Covid-impacted years away, with his presence helping draw the biggest galleries to the Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane since the 1980s.
He didn’t disappoint the fans, firing a final round 68 to end on 14-under 270, seeing off the challenge of Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune (65) and Australian Jason Scrivener (67) who both tied for second at the DP World Tour-sanctioned event.
“It’s awesome mate, I really didn’t think I had it in me this week to be honest,” said Smith.
“The start of the week was a little bit scratchy, but my game got better and better as the week went on other than the front nine today.”
Smith defected to the Saudi-backed LIV circuit and is banned from playing on the US PGA Tour, but is allowed to tee off in DP World Tour events in his homeland as a full member of the PGA Tour of Australasia.
His defection to LIV in September came after a breakthrough year with three US PGA Tour victories, including the 150th Open at St. Andrews in July, then one on the breakaway tour in Chicago.
Smith took a three-stroke lead into the final round ahead of China’s Liu Yanwei and Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura.
But by the time the players were forced off the fairways for a second time Sunday due to threatening electrical storms it had dwindled to one.
Smith returned and made a bogey at 11 for a three-way tie at the top with Scrivener and Hisatsune.
But he then played a magical shot from the rough and converted a birdie putt at the next to reclaim the lead.
Another birdie at the 13th put him two strokes clear with five to play and when Scrivener made a disastrous double bogey at the 17th, the victory was all but assured.
“It was a little bit frustrating,” Smith said on the delays. “You’re kind of in the mojo there a little bit and for it to be stopped not once but twice … but I just held on and played really solid those last eight holes.”
Former Masters champion Adam Scott ended tied 28th, despite having Tiger Woods’ ex-caddie Steve Williams on the bag.