There’s been a lot said about Cameron Smith this year. When you lead your team to a domestic NRL premiership for Melbourne Storm (winning the Player of the Year award along the way), and add another State of Origin campaign to your CV and then top it off with a World Rugby League Championship – a lot is going to be written about you! But the win at the Australian PGA at RACV Royal Pines wasn’t about “that” Cameron Smith – it was his namesake and fellow Queenslander that won all the golfing accolades over the weekend.
Golfer Cameron Smith thrilled a hometown crowd winning the 2017 Australian PGA Championship on the second playoff hole against New South Welshman Jordan Zunic.
Smith shot rounds of 67, 68, 68 and 67 to finish regulation play on 18-under the card alongside Zunic, who began the final round with a three shot lead. The pair were in a head-to-head battle through the 18 holes today, sharing and swapping the lead on multiple occasions.
The Queenslander edged to a one shot lead over Zunic on the 17th hole but dropped a shot on the 18th where Zunic made par to force the playoff.
The pair both made par on the first playoff and after Zunic made bogey on the second trip, Smith got to the hole in four shots to etch his name on the Joe Kirkwood Cup.
“That was a bit of a grind out there today. I didn't quite have my best ball‑striking stuff on the back-9 but managed to get away with some good short game and just holing the putts that I needed to hole,” said Smith.
“I tried to stay aggressive all day. With the lead Jordan had, I thought that I had to stay aggressive, I knew he was playing well.”
The win marks Smith’s first individual win as a Professional, his other coming in the PGA TOUR’s Zurich Classic, a team event he won with Swede Jonas Blixt, who watched on from the side of the 18th green today.
He said he remembers attending the Australian PGA Championship and has always had winning this tournament as a goal in his career and will play the tournament as long as he’s able to make it back home.
“I remember going out there with dad and mum watching Adam (Scott) and those type of guys up there at Coolum,” added Smith.
“And then it was really one of my goals, I wanted to win one down here, and just being in Queensland makes it a little bit more special.
“This will be on my schedule as long as I have my card and full status in the U.S.; I'll definitely come back down here and play two or three that are here, for sure.”
Thanks to the Australian PGA Championship’s co-sanctioning with the European Tour, Smith now has exemption on their Tour until the end of 2019, he’s yet to decide if he’ll take up the opportunity but mentioned it’s somewhere he’d like to play Professionally.
“I didn't even realise that (exemption) was what happened. I might go over there for a few weeks and maybe do a little playing holiday type thing, I'm not sure. It would be nice to get over there and play some, I'm sure,” added Smith who picked up a pay cheque of AU$237,500.
Zunic, who equaled the course record with his round of 64 yesterday was gracious in defeat and is proud of how far his game has come after a run of tough results.
“I didn't quite hit it as well off the tee today which didn't give me as many birdie opportunities, and the couple birdie opportunities I had late on the back-9 in regular play I just ran by the edge,” said Zunic.
“So I'm pretty happy with everything this week. I've come a long way from where I was last week and missing a few cuts, so I'm happy about that.”
South Australian Adam Bland finished third at 17-under the card, narrowly missing the second place finish he needed to win the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit title, that honour goes to West Australian Brett Rumford who accumulated AU$313,094 this year mostly thanks to his win at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth.
Rumford will now receive an invitation to The 147th Open Championship as well as the WGC – Mexico Championship and the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational.
Finishing in a tie for fourth was Victorian’s David Bransdon and Marc Leishman who both shot 4-under 68 today to be 14-under the card following four rounds.
Greg Norman Medalist Leishman said he left some opportunities out there with his putter.
“I actually played really well. Same sort of story as yesterday with the putter, just had a lot of opportunities and didn't take them,” said Leishman.
“So disappointed in that respect but bogey‑free 68, I finished fourth, I think. Not exactly what I was after, but still a pretty good week.”
Defending champion Harold Varner III continued his strong form at the Australian PGA Championship with a third top-10 finish in three years, he shot 6-under 66 to finish 12-under the card and outright 6th.
He said he looks forward to making a return to Queensland and the tournament in the future.
“It's been a blast; I can't wait to come back. Just yesterday I had a bad attitude and it showed with the score. So it's golf, I've just got to learn from it,” said Varner.
“I obviously played pretty well here, so I just need to keep my game sharp and come back.”
American Sean Crocker and Victorian Lucas Herbert finished tied for 7th at 11-under the card with Crocker being awarded the Kel Nagle Plate for the best performing rookie at the Australian PGA Championship.
England’s Nathan Kimsey and South Australian Wade Ormsby rounded out the top-10 on 10-under the card.
The ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia 2018 season will begin at the Rebel Sport Masters to be played at Wainui Golf Club in New Zealand from 11 – 14 January.
Article and image courtest PGA of Australia