Cameron Smith held off the challenge of fellow home favourite Marc Leishman to successfully defend his title at the Australian PGA Championship.
The 25 year old came into the final day at RACV Royal Pines Resort with a three-shot lead but found himself two behind after nine holes as Leishman turned in 32 to move ahead. However, Smith came home in 33 to sign for a 70 and finish at 16 under, two shots clear of the World Number 21.
Smith’s second European Tour victory comes in just his 20th event and makes him the first player to successfully defend this title since Robert Allenby in 2001.
England’s Ross McGowan broke the course record with a 63 to finish at 11 under alongside Australian Matthew Millar. McGowan birdied the third, fourth, fifth and eighth to turn in 32 and then made four birdies in a row from the tenth to get into double-figures. Another gain came on the 15th and he parred his way home for a place in the history books.
Jake McLeod signed for a closing 74 to finish in a tie for 19th and that was good enough to secure the Australian the Order of Merit on the PGA Tour of Australasia and a European Tour card for the rest of the 2019 season. The Australian catapulted himself into contention in the season-long race with a first professional win at the NSW Open three weeks ago and he followed that up by finishing third at the Australian Open and securing a spot at The Open Championship in the process.
South Korea’s Jaewoong Eom finished at seven under, a shot clear of Australian trio Ben Eccles, Nick Flanagan and Jason Scrivener.
Cameron Smith: “It was a bit of a struggle today, but this makes it more worth it when you get it done.
“I didn’t really have the greatest start and, you know, the family and friends and everything were still behind me egging me on. Pinna (Sam Pinfold) is always positive no matter if we’re two over through five or if we’re eight under through five, he’s still, “Let’s keep going.” He kept me in there today. He told me that if we got nine good looks at it from the back nine that we’ll be fine. Just kept high hopes basically, which is good.
“I wasn’t really feeling nervous. Hit a bit of a crappy tee shot on one. Probably got a little bit unlucky to end up where it was, but that’s golf. I’ve been pretty fortunate all week with kicks and bounces and stuff. To get one bad one like that, it’s bound to happen.
“From there on basically I thought I hit really good shots. The wind direction was a little bit different today, which was a little bit mind boggling type thing. Just took it on the chin and tried to stay positive and that was it.
“Leish was a couple ahead at that point and I thought we need to make a big move. I hit a good shot just left of the green and put a bit of pressure on Leish and he still made birdie. I mean, that’s just the type of player he is, he’s just so good. I got to watch it all last week and again this week, so he’s a pleasure to watch.
“I did feel for Leish. It’s always hard going up against a mate and trying to win a golf tournament. I’ve been in this situation before and I’ve had it happen to me as well. It’s a weird one, but I’m sure we’ll have a beer over Christmas or when I see him next and we’ll be back to being mates.”
Marc Leishman: “A couple of shots obviously didn’t come out how I wanted them to, and that horseshoe on 14 didn’t help. Lost a bit momentum really. I think Cam made birdies when he had to. All credit to him. Obviously disappointed that I didn’t get over the line, but glad that I gave it a run there. Made it pretty interesting there.
“Definitely disappointed at the moment, but you’re always happy for Cam. We had a good fight out there. At the end of the day, you’re right, I did want to win. Gave it my best and just didn’t make it.”
Jake McLeod: “That’s where I’ve wanted to play for a couple years now, so it’s nice to finally get there this way. I think I might take the rest of the year off, recharge the batteries, and looking forward to next year.
“Just straight up Europe at the moment. I’ve also got full status over in Asia, so I think they have a few co-sanctions over there and I’ll try to maintain a card that way over there. The focus is solely on Europe, and I’m not too sure what I’ll get into yet, but I heard the card’s pretty good, so I’m looking forward to it.
Ross McGowan: “Finishing last or near last on Friday, there’s always a risk if you’re around the cut mark you’ll be off first in the morning on your own, which obviously happened. Played nicely yesterday. Didn’t quite get the score going, should have been a few better, and today had a couple of good bounces, and just hit the ball great.
“There’s always a few missed opportunities, isn’t there? I played lovely today. Didn’t hit the greatest shot into nine, misjudged the wind there a little bit. Hit a great shot on 17 a yard short and it fell back down the hill. But when the wind’s gusting, it’s not very easy to control the ball. I was really happy with the way I played.”