'Unworldly': Golf world reacts to Cam Smith's record-breaking feat

·6-min read
Pictured here, Cameron Smith poses with The Players Championship trophy after victory in Florida.
Cameron Smith earned himself a $A5 million payday after a record-breaking victory at The Players Championship. Pic: Getty

Australia's Cameron Smith is being hailed around the world after a nerveless final round saw the 28-year-old claim a record-breaking victory at The Players Championship in Florida.

Smith carded a birdie-filled and dramatic final round six-under-par 66 to record a steely one-shot victory at TPC Sawgrass and join a who's who of golf greats on the honour roll.

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The Aussie was pushed all the way by India's surprise third-round leader Anirban Lahiri, who needed a birdie to force a a play-off with Smith after some late drama.

Smith finished at 13-under for the tournament, with Lahiri settling for outright second after closing with a 69.

Englishman Paul Casey (69) was third at 11 under, with American Kevin Kisner (68) a further shot back in fourth and Keegan Bradley (68) rounding out the top five at nine under.

Apart from the prestige of winning the PGA Tour's flagship event and the game's unofficial fifth major, Smith pocketed the richest winner's cheque for a PGA Tour event of $US3.6 million ($A5 million) and will rocket to second in the season-long FedExCup standings.

Smith's rollercoaster final day capped off a weather-marred week that saw players finish their third rounds before starting the fourth on an action packed Monday in Florida.

In extraordinary scenes on the last day, the Aussie sank an unprecedented 10 birdies on the Stadium Course, including five in the first six holes.

But the victory wasn't without endless tension after Smith had shown tremendous courage to take on the infamous 'island green' 17th hole - his nerveless tee shot setting up a birdie for a two-shot lead.

However, on 18 Smith found the water after trying to punch the ball out of the pine needles and back onto the fairway, having sprayed his drive to the right off the tee.

Needing a scrambling up-and-down bogey to fend off Lahiri, Smith again came up clutch at the death by sending his approach shot with two metres of the cup.

Fittingly, he delivered to complete the best putting display in the tournament's 49-year history.

Smith's 101 putts for the 72 holes was the fewest by any winner in almost half a century.

Described by awestruck US commentators as "unworldly", the Aussie's incredible achievement was celebrated by fans around the world.

Smith joins fellow Australians Steve Elkington (1991 and 1997), Greg Norman (1994), Adam Scott (2004) and Jason Day (2016) on the famous honour board.

Other champions include major-winning legends Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

"It's huge. It's gonna take a while to sink in," Smith said.

"Obviously lots of Australians have won here - lots of great Australian golfers - but the best that have ever lived have won here, as well.

"So it's pretty cool to have the name on the same trophy as them."

Cameron Smith's emotional tribute to family

The Queenslander choked up after describing the emotion of winning in front of his mother and sister, who were visiting Smith, who lives nearby at Jacksonville Beach.

"I haven't seen them in two years so it's really cool to have them here," he said.

"My main priority really was to hang out with them and golf was second these 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 score of 34 under par.

He will rise to world No.6 ahead of next month's Masters, the year's first major at Augusta National.

Seen here, Australia's Cameron Smith studies a putt at The Players Championship in Florida.
Australia's Cameron Smith delivered the best putting display in the 49-year history of The Players Championship. Pic: Getty

Resuming his third round on the 11th hole after five days of ferocious wind and rain, Smith birdied the island green par-3 17th to pull within two shots of Lahiri entering the final round.

With birdies at the first four holes, then another on the sixth, Smith was suddenly two strokes in front.

But he made three consecutive bogeys to fall back as Lahiri, Casey and Bradley - who picked up an incredible 13 shots in 24 holes on Monday - also hit the lead at different stages.

Smith appeared to be running away with the trophy with a string of four birdies to start his back nine and then recovering from a duck-hook tee shot on the 16th to make a miraculous par.

But after draining his 10th birdie on the signature 17th hole, Smith had to dig deep one final time at the last.

with AAP

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