The mullet, the mallet, was both excellent for Cameron Smith on Sunday as he started off the last nine of the Old Course with five consecutive birdies and walked away for a win at the British Open.
The affable Aussie, whose Joe Dirt hairstyle makes him recognizable from two par-five holes, overtook fan favorite Rory McIlroy and bounced late by Cameron Young to end the major championship at 20-under par.
Shaping the claret jug after the trophy presentation, Smith said: “I’m going to find out how many beers it can hold, that’s for sure.”
He later estimated that there would be two beers, and that he would probably celebrate with “about 20 claret jugs”.
The leaderboard was dual overhead cams, as Young finished second on 19. One shot behind him was McIlroy, who has yet to win that elusive fifth Major after collecting four in quick succession early in his career.
McIlroy, who came up with a four-shot lead on Sunday with Victor Hovland, didn’t play poorly. He was deadly precise with his approach. He could not make a put, missed several birdie chances when he saw Smith dipping into the cup.
“Today the putter got a little cooler than the last three days,” said McIlroy, who has gone 30 majors since his last win in 2014, when he won the British Open and PGA Championship back to back.
Smith is the first Australian to win the British Open since two-time winner Greg Norman in 1986. Norman, commissioner of the controversial LIV Golf Series, was told to stay away by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews. Open Championship.
Meanwhile, there are persistent rumors that Smith could be one of the next competitors to jump ship to the rival league. Clearly uneasy when asked about it after Sunday’s win, he did not deny the rumours, saying that was not on his mind at the moment.
“My team around me is worried about all that stuff,” he said. “I’m here to win the golf tournament.”
He did a remarkable job in the final round, a day after slipping into a tie for second with a third-round 73.
At the midpoint of Sunday’s round, McIlroy had secured the separation with a two-shot lead over Hovland – the Norwegian Ho-Hum would end with 74 – and a three-shot lead over the duel Cameron.
But Smith hit a turbo in the inner nine. He went birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie to take the lead, while the Northern Ireland star birdied at No. 10, then couldn’t sink another birdie.
According to ESPN, Smith is the only player in the last 20 years to birdie the first five holes of the last nine in the final round of the Major. He sealed the deal with Birdie at number 18.
“I don’t think I hit the ball differently all four days, to be honest,” Smith said. “I felt like I kept hitting quality golf shots and found myself watching birdies from afar, which sometimes you have to do here.
“The only difference today was that the puts were falling. I spent a little time in the green [Saturday] night, and just really wanted to go some put in. Yes, it turns out it was a very good thing. ,
Smith was in the second-to-last group, so he had to wait for McIlroy to finish before he knew he had won. That said, McIlroy would have to eagle out No. 18 to force him to the playoffs. Young drilled the final hole to secure a second-place finish.
So when McIlroy’s all-or-nothing chip overtook the hole, Smith knew the championship belonged to him.
Smith was watching the broadcast from a couch in the scorer’s tent, talking with his father in Australia.
“Don’t cry,” he told his father. “You’ll make me cry.”
Later, he lamented that his father decided not to travel.
“Yeah, he’s definitely kicking himself now,” Smith said. “I really wish he was here too. It would have been such a great week, even without [motioning to the Claret Jug], to be at the house of golf. Papa also loves golf. That would have been awesome.”
There was synergy with this victory. During a post-match press conference, a reporter informed Smith that Australian Kyle Nagle had won the 100th Open.
“It’s great,” Smith said. “I didn’t know that.”
Later, he added: “Hopefully we can continue that trend every 50 years. That would be cool, wouldn’t it?”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.