Saturday, February 24

Players Championship: Australian Cameron Smith holds off England’s Paul Casey to win at TPC Sawgrass

Smith hit 10 birdies in an astonishing final round at TPC Sawgrass

Cameron Smith claimed the biggest win of his career as a Players Championship that featured storm delays and near freezing temperatures concluded in warm sunshine at TPC Sawgrass on Monday.

He becomes the fifth Australian to win the PGA Tour’s flagship event and takes home $3.6m, the largest prize in golf.

Smith holed 10 birdies in a six-under-par 66 to win on 13 under, one ahead of India’s Anirban Lahiri in Florida.

England’s Paul Casey pushed Smith as he carded a 69 to end third on 11 under.

“There was no losing it, I flat out won it and you have to respect that,” said Casey.

“You have to acknowledge how well Cam played. To start off with all the birdies, it was a remarkable round of golf.”

It was a terrific battle between the pair, with Smith holing four consecutive birdie putts to race clear of the field and a fifth came at his sixth hole to get to 12 under.

But the momentum started to shift on the par-four seventh as Casey rolled in his first birdie putt to get within two as Smith bogeyed.

And the lead was eradicated on the par-five ninth, with Smith carding a third successive bogey, while Casey again birdied as both started the back nine on nine under.

Elsewhere, pressure was coming from American Keegan Bradley, who had four birdies from the ninth to get to 10 under, while round-three leader Anirban Lahiri was also on that mark after seven holes.

A double bogey on the par-three eighth looked ruinous for Lahiri but the Indian, ranked 322 in the world hit back with an eagle on the 11th to get right back in the hunt on 11 under.

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Smith was on another birdie run though, holing four in succession from the 10th to get to 13 under and put daylight between himself and the field.

Casey was hanging in there, with birdies on the 11th and 12th to get to 11 under but his luck ran out on the par-five 16th. After a monstrous drive, his ball ended up in a divot, preventing him from going for the green in two.

“It was the best tee shot I have hit all week on that hole,” said Casey. “Cameron had hit it into the trees and I thought the door was open. I wanted to go for the green but there were too many variables and too many risks.”

Casey had to settle for par, as did Smith and the world number 10 further extended his lead with a terrific birdie on the iconic par-three 17th, although he later admitted he didn’t mean to aim at the pin.

And, despite putting his second shot in the water as he bogeyed the last, Smith had done enough.

Stormy week with sunny ending

The 40th anniversary of the first Players Championship to be held at the iconic purpose-built Stadium Course will live long in the memory.

The first round alone took 54 hours to complete as five inches of rain deluged the course with thunderstorms, forcing fans to be evacuated from the course on Thursday and Friday.

And the strong winds that blew away the storms that delayed Saturday’s start, wreaked havoc, with 35mph gusts leading to high scoring for those unfortunate to be out there.

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After the end of the second round, the top 10 players on the leaderboard had all gone out in the morning wave on Thursday, leading England’s Lee Westwood, who was among the later starters and therefore playing in the worst conditions, to post on Twitter: “I haven’t seen this big a discrepancy between morning and afternoon waves in a good few years.”

He shot a one-over 73 in the opening round but an 80 in Saturday’s wind.

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