Open Championship: 10 things to know about Cameron Smith’s historic win
With the crowd’s support entrenched behind the man he was trying to chase, Cameron Smith just kept making birdies. By the end of the afternoon, he had played the back nine at the Old Course in six under to win his first major title.
A highly anticipated week even exceeded its huge hype as the home of golf yielded another classic championship and witnessed greater heartbreak for one of the game’s most popular and accomplished stars.
Here are the best numbers to know from the final round of the 150th Open Championship.
1. Smith staged one of the most remarkable final rounds in recent major memory, carding 64 to beat Cameron Young by one and Rory McIlroy by two blows. Smith has birdied five straight to start the back nine, the most in a row in the last round of the Open in 21 years (Philip Price at the Royal Lytham). His final nine-hole score of 30 is the lowest of any Open champion in history. His score for the week of 20 under par tied the lowest in men’s major championship history, a mark reached three times but never before at St. Andrews.
Smith becomes the second man to win The Players Championship and The Open in the same year, joining Jack Nicklaus in 1978. That year, the Open was at St. Andrews, and like Smith, Nicklaus was tied for third to start the final round. For the second major in a row, the champion joined only Nicklaus in a historic distinction: at the US Open, Matt Fitzpatrick joined Nicklaus as the only men in history to win the US Amateur and the US Open at the same championship venue.
2. Smith has gained 11.96 strokes from the field this week, the most of any player by more than a stroke and a half. In the final round, he won 3.1 – five more than the man he chased, Rory McIlroy. Combining strokes earned on and around the greens for the tournament, Smith racked up 3.37 per round, easily the most of any player.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 17, 2022
On a run that historically doesn’t yield many great returns, Smith became the first to win his first career major at St. Andrews despite trailing entering the final round since Dick Burton in 1939. Smith was only the seventh player in men’s golf history to win a major tournament with a final score of 64 or less. He became the third Australian player to win at St. Andrews, joining Peter Thomson and Kel Nagleand the first Australian to win an Open since Greg Norman in 1993.
3. Smith started 2022 by lighting up Kapalua, winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a score of 34 under, the lowest number to tie in a 72-hole tournament in PGA Tour history. His pair of 64s this week were even more impressive from a ridiculously low perspective. In the past 25 years, no other player has had two rounds this low in the same major championship. In fact, only three players have had more than two rounds of 64 in the majors in their careers during this span – Smith is now tied for fourth on this list via this week alone.
Since 1995, no player has had more than two major championship rounds under 8 or better in his entire career. Smith has just done it twice in the same tournament.
4. Even the collective will of seemingly every golf fan in Scotland couldn’t force a putt down for McIlroy on Sunday. McIlroy hit the mammoth 18 greens at St. Andrews in regulation time in the final round, but also had 36 putts – seven more than Smith. Since stats were first officially recorded in major tournaments, McIlroy is the only player to hold the lead or co-lead of 54 holes, hit every green in the final round, and not win the tournament. .
His two most putts in a single major round have now both come at St. Andrews — in the second round in 2010 (39) and Sunday (36). By strokes gained, McIlroy ranked 73rd out of 83 players on the court Sunday at The Old Course.
5. McIlroy has finished eighth or better in all four major championships this year, but hasn’t won any. In the past 50 years, only two other players have had a major season like this: Ben Crenshaw in 1987 and Ricky Fowler in 2014. McIlroy racked up 53.6 total strokes against the field in the majors for the year – the most by a player in a single major season without a win since Ernie Els (60.2) in 2004.
McIlroy’s major winless drought will now enter a ninth year. McIlroy has 17 top-10 finishes in majors since winning the 2014 PGA Championship, the most of any player in that span.
6. With the crown of our 28-year-old golfing champion, it’s (incredibly) the first time that all four major male winners in any given year have been under the age of 30. It also makes them six different major winners in a row all under 30, the first time the men’s game has seen this since the inaugural Masters tournament in 1934.
Traditionally the major best suited to older contenders, even The Old Course is part of the sport’s youth movement. With Collin Morikawa last year and Smith this week, it’s the first time the Open has had back-to-back under-30 winners since 2000 (Tiger Woods) and 2001 (David Duval).
seven. With a bright eagle at the end, Young ended up jumping over McIlroy for second place — a chance development worth $522,000 in official prize money for the PGA Tour rookie. Young’s second is the best finish by a player at St. Andrews on his Open Championship debut since 1964, when Tony Lema won it on his first try there. With his T3 at the PGA, Young is one of four American players with multiple top fives at the majors in 2022 – the others are Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris and Morikawa.
8. Twenty one years Philip Celli received the silver medal, joining Matteo Manassero in 2009 as the only Italian players to ever be a low amateur at the Open Championship. Celli birdied the 18th hole in all four rounds, the only case since 1995 of an amateur birdie-or-better on the closing hole four times in this championship. Celli, the 76th world amateur entering this week, became Italy’s third winner of the European Amateur Championship in June.
9. A whopping 20 golfers finished the week in double figures under par, meeting expectations of low scores this week around the Old Course. In every other 72-hole Open at St. Andrews before this combined, there were 29 players to finish at 278 (-10) or lower, and 11 of those came seven years ago. The field scoring average has dropped every day this week, ending at 69.68 for the final round. Only last year’s Sunday average of 69.62 is lower among Open final rounds over the past quarter-century.
ten. By the time the 2023 Masters begin, the landscape of professional golf will likely be even more fractured than it is today. Whether or not the composition of this course in Augusta differs from what we have seen in recent years remains to be seen: this week, the OWGR announced that it had begun to review the application submitted by LIV Golf for inclusion in the system.
As this saga progresses, fans are left with a more splintered product, with the full collection of the world’s best players rarely in one place, as they were this week. This is probably the last tournament bringing together the two Dustin Johnson and McIlroy (and any other number of player combinations) through April. Whether or not you have a strong position on either side of the LIV fence, this aspect is unfortunate.
The Master starts in 263 days.
(Top photo: Michael Madrid/USA Today)