At the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Cameron Smith and Jon Rahm put on a birdie barrage that made it feel unfair that one of them had to lose. In the end, the 28-year-old Australian responded to every birdie made by the World No. 1 with his own, shooting an 8-under 65 in the final round to win by one stroke in Hawaii.
He said, “Mate, it was intense.” “An unbelievable round, one I’ll never forget.”
As a soft and defenseless Plantation Course at Kapalua took another battering to par, it was a record-breaking performance. Smith shot a total of 34-under 258, the lowest score in a 72-hole event since 1950, on another beautiful windless day. Smith, who won the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2020, is the fifth player to win both Tour tournaments in Hawaii, joining Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Zach Johnson, and Justin Thomas.
“It’s ridiculous how much Hawaii reminds me of where I grew up,” he remarked. “The grass we hit off was slow and gritty, and the greens were slow and grainy as well.” Yes, that’s fantastic; I adore it here.”
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Smith once again demonstrated that he is capable of being more than simply a golfer with a mullet who is popular on social media. At the 2019 Presidents Cup, he had previously defeated Thomas in singles. This time, he went head-to-head with Rahm, the U.S. Open champion and World No. 1 over the weekend. Smith took the lead in the final round with a birdie at the fourth hole, wedging to 5 feet and finishing in 32 to take a two-shot lead.
“I think the greatest difference today was those opening six holes,” Rahm said, noting that he only made one birdie over that time.
With a birdie at No. 11, he narrowed the margin to one, but Smith, who loves to fish practically every day while he’s home in Florida, reeled in three birdies in a row to match Rahm birdie for birdie starting at No. 13.
Rahm pushed Smith to the finish line, forcing him to make one more birdie from 3 feet, 6 inches at the last hole to clinch his fourth career Tour title.
“Over the weekend, I witnessed several reasons why Jon Rahm is the finest player in the world,” Smith remarked. “However, I suppose it was satisfying to be able to keep him off.”
Smith only made three bogeys throughout the tournament and none over the weekend. He started with a 65 and followed it up with a pair of 64s, but that was only good enough for a share of the 54-hole lead with Rahm, who set a tournament 18-hole scoring record with a round of 61 on Saturday (set earlier in the day by Thomas.) Since the event moved to The Plantation Course in 1999, the third-round scoring average (67.711) was the lowest in a single round.
“All golf fans need to know is how many points each cause receives. Everyone just sees, ‘Oh, they’re hitting it so far now, that’s why it’s so low,’ I believe. “It’s like nah, it’s so low because it’s so soft, and if you give us soft conditions, fairways this big, and a course this short, we’re going to shoot zero,” Thomas said, implying that 7,600-yard courses are now considered “short.” “Then, if you don’t give us much wind, we’ll shoot even lower.”
Matt Jones shot 62-61 over the weekend to become the third player to break Els’ 31-under total record for 72-hole score in relation to par, which he set at this tournament in 2003. Jones came in third place on his own. It didn’t escape Rahm’s notice how phenomenally well both he and Jones played, despite the fact that none of them took home a prize.
“When you look back in the records, it’s sort of strange because two of us beat (the lowest 72-hole) score and lost by one and two,” he added.
Patrick Cantlay (67), the reigning FedEx Cup winner, was alone in fourth place, eight strokes behind Smith. Collin Morikawa, the World No. 2, tied for fifth place with Thomas and Daniel Berger on Sunday with a 62.
Smith’s triumph maintains an intriguing trend of New Orleans and Hawaii swapping victories. In 2017, he and Jonas Blixt won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. His second came in Hawaii at the 2020 Sony Open. He then won the Zurich with fellow Australian Marc Leishman last year before winning this week at Kapalua.
Smith wasted little time in reaching one of his New Year’s resolutions: he broke into the top 10 for the first time in his career.
He said, “That’s pretty cool.” “It’s wonderful to have that out of the way.” I’m hoping to keep climbing the international ranks.”