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Smith delights home fans with play-off victory

Cameron Smith © Getty Images
Cameron Smith © Getty Images

Cameron Smith overcame Jordan Zunic on the second play-off hole after a dramatic final round to claim his first European Tour title at the Australian PGA Championship.

The Queensland native entered the final day three shots off the lead held by fellow Australian Zunic and he still trailed by one at the turn on a tense day at RACV Royal Pines Resort.

For Smith, victory comes in just his 11th European Tour event and hands Australia a clean sweep in the early stages of the 2018 Race to Dubai following Wade Ormsby’s win at the UBS Hong Kong Open last week.

A Zunic bogey on the tenth handed Smith a share of the lead and he led on his own after a birdie on the 17th but missed a five-foot putt on the last regulation hole to send them back to the 18th tee.

Smith went up-and-down from over the back of the first extra green to stay in the contest, and with Zunic bogeying the last at the second time of asking, the 24 year old went up-and-down again for his maiden European Tour victory.

Adam Bland finished just a shot outside the play-off at 17 under, three clear of two more Australians in World Number 13 Marc Leishman and David Bransdon. Meanwhile. defending champion Harold Varner III was six shots off the lead at 12 under, with American Sean Crocker and Australian Lucas Herbert finishing the week at 11 under, one shot clear of Ormsby and Englishman Nathan Kimsey.

Masters Champion Sergio Garcia signed for a final round of 74 to finish tied 24 overall.

Player quotes

Cameron Smith: “A bit of a grind out there today. Obviously waking up early to get away from this rain that mysteriously hasn’t come. Yeah, tough day out there and congrats to Jordan as well, he played well.

“I mean I wasn’t really expecting much out of that chip shot there on the play-off hole. Just wanted to get it basically inside Jordan’s and ended up hitting a really good shot. Like you said, I had my chance on the 72nd and just misread the putt. Nice to get it done.

“I haven’t even had time to process that but it’s been a really good year. My goals this year were to win one down here and it’s nice to tick that one off.

“It won’t change me that much this time. It did last time. I got ahead of myself a little bit when I won last time thinking that it’s the easiest game on the planet and I could go out there and win every week. Went and had a little bit of a battle through the middle of the year, didn’t really play that great. So I think the key is to just keep doing what I’m doing and not really expect too much and not really get ahead of myself.”

Jordan Zunic:“I just tried to keep doing what I’ve been doing the last four days. I mean, I felt really good, had a good mindset all day. 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 nine in regular play I just ran by the edge. 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.

“It’s always great. This is why we practice and this is why we dream to play these sort of events and play in front of huge crowds. I loved every minute of it. I had my family in the crowd there and Olivia by my side there, my girlfriend caddying. She was great, she helped me out through the whole way. You know, we did everything we could so that’s all I could do. Cam was just too good on the back.”

Adam Bland: “Awesome way to finish. I didn’t have my game really today or the last two days after the first few days, but hung tough and got around with a chance to win coming down the last few holes, so it was still good to be there.

“Looking forward to getting some consistency out of my game. It’s sort of been up and down lately and just working hard and trying to get a little bit better each year so when I go to Europe next year after the starts I can perform well.”

Marc Leishman: “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. 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.

“It’s been amazing. Crowd’s been really, really good. Being out there today, it’s always nice to get home to Australia and just enjoy everything it has to offer. I jump at every chance I can get and I really enjoyed this one.”

Harold Varner III: “It was good. Just played really solid. I played really well yesterday actually, just didn’t finish it off. But yeah, it feels good just to have a good tournament to end the year.

“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. Obviously, played pretty well here, so I just need to keep my game sharp and come back.”

Final scores