Cameron Smith charged his way into history on the Old Course, a Sunday stunner at St. Andrews that sent the Australian to his first major by overcoming Rory McIlroy to win the British Open.
The stage was set for McIlroy to end his eight-year drought in the majors and cap off a week of celebration at the home of golf in the 150th Open.
Smith stole the show by running off five straight birdies to start the back nine and delivering more clutch moments at the end. His 8-under 64 was the lowest final round by a champion in the 30 times golf’s oldest champion has been played at St. Andrews.
Smith won by one shot over Cameron Young, who holed a 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole. It wasn’t enough, and neither was anything McIlroy could muster.
He couldn’t make a putt early. He couldn’t hit it close enough late. His last good chance was a 15-foot birdie attempt on the scary Road Hole at No. 17, and it narrowly missed to the left.
Smith, who saved par on the 17th with a 10-foot putt, was at the front of the 18th green with his tee shot. From 80 feet away, his pace up the slope and toward the cup was close to perfect, leaving him a tap-in birdie to finish at 20-under 268.
Smith matched the major championship record to par, last reached by Dustin Johnson in the 2020 Masters held in November.
McIlroy needed eagle to tie him, and his putt through the Valley of Sin had no chance. He missed the birdie and wound up with a 70 to finish third.
Smith is the first Australian to win at St. Andrews since Kel Nagle in 1960, when he topped a rising American star named Arnold Palmer, the people’s choice.
That’s what McIlroy is now, and all day there was an energy along the humps and hollows of the Old Course, all of them waiting to celebrate McIlroy as an Open champion at St. Andrews.
He gave them little to cheer — two birdies, 16 pars, more disappointment.