Beginning the day four strokes behind leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland, Australian sensation Cameron Smith rode a final- round 64 to the title Champion Golfer of the Year as victor at the 150th Open Championship. Smith (-20) matched the lowest score to par in major championship history, and his 30 on the back nine Sunday was the lowest score across the final half of a round for any major champion.
Making amends for the disappointment of his third round, Smith was simply brilliant as he rediscovered the putting magic that first led him to the 36-hole lead. He scored eight birdies with no bogeys on Sunday, starting with a 34 on the front before going low on five consecutive holes from Nos. 10-14 as he took advantage of every scoring opportunity at the Old Course on his way to wrestling the lead away from McIlroy.
Despite the birdie barrage, it was a par save on the 17th that Smith may look back upon as the defining moment of his championship. Behind the Road Hole bunker in two, he utilized his greatest weapon -- the putter -- to get up and down on the most difficult hole at St. Andrews.
Taking the wind out of the sails of McIlroy, Smith became the first major champion in modern history to sign for two rounds of 64 or lower. His aggressive play cost him in the third round but was exactly what propelled him to victory on Sunday as he joined Jack Nicklaus (1978) as the only men to win the Players Championship and The Open in the same year.
Here is the breakdown of the final leaderboard from the 150th Open Championship.
1. Cameron Smith (-20): Playing spoiler to McIlroy, Smith was able to right the wrongs of his third round with a brilliant 8-under 64. He gained nearly 10 strokes putting through the first two days and rode his hot putting stroke again Sunday. It was a middling start to his final round as he turned in 2 under before catching fire on the front part of his inward nine. Five straight birdies marked a personal best in his major championship career, and he once again proved when the lights are the brightest, his game shines. He took down Jon Rahm at the Tournament of Champions, made 10 birdies in the final round of the Players Championship to secure the biggest payday in golf and stared down all of St. Andrews to raise the Claret Jug.
2. Cameron Young (-19): Good for his fourth runner-up finish of his rookie campaign, Young looks like anything but a neophyte when stepping onto a major championship venue. He has now finished on the podium at Riviera, Southern Hills and St. Andrews. The first win of his PGA Tour career is surely around the corner. Young would have signed up for a final round of 7-under 65 at the beginning of the day, but he will be kicking himself for some silly mistakes. Young three-putted No. 1, had to take an unplayable on the short par-4 ninth and left birdie opportunities short on Nos. 15 and 17 and finished in second in spite of these blunders.
3. Rory McIlroy (-18): If the Masters runner-up was pure jubilation, this has to feel like an ultimate defeat. Possessing the 54-hole lead in a major championship for the first time in eight years, McIlroy's lack of aggression and enhanced level of maturity may have actually served as the thorn in his side. Unable to get anything going on the greens, the four-time major winner two-putted the final 39 holes of his championship to fall two strokes behind Smith. McIlroy became the only player in 2022 to finish inside the top 10 of each major championship, but at this point in his career, he won't take any solace in close calls. Rory has not won a major championship in eight years and now has 17 top-10 finishes in 31 such events played across that time.
"I knew that I could do it. I know this golf course. I play well here. The last two Opens I've played here, I've finished 3rd both times," McIlroy said. "It's coming. I think just this whole major season, 2nd at Augusta [National], 3rd here, 5th at the U.S. Open, 8th at the PGA [Championship] -- I'm knocking on the door. I just need to stay patient, keep knocking on the door, and eventually one will open for me again."
T4. Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood (-14): In his first taste of major championship contention, Hovland struggled early and often as he signed for a 2-over 74. Making some head-scratching decisions such as keeping driver in the bag on accessible birdie holes, the young Norwegian should put this experience to good use. It marks his first top-10 finish in a major championship and could serve as a springboard into 2023.
T6. Dustin Johnson and Brian Harman (-13): Reaching 11 under after back-to-back birdies early in his third round, Johnson played his remaining 33 holes in 2 under. Simply too messy on and around the greens, the two-time major winner may have let one of the best opportunities to win an Open slip through his grasp. With so much uncertainty around the status of his major eligibility moving forward, Johnson may only have through 2025 to add to his total.
T8. Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay (-12): Outside of the second round, DeChambeau was impressive around St. Andrews as he signed for rounds of 69-74-67-66 for a total of 12 under. Over the weekend, he employed a different strategy; one has to wonder what his championship would have looked like if he had been aggressive from the start. The Old Course was no match for the modern player, and despite being the mad scientist, it was too little too late once DeChambeau had St. Andrews figured out.
T15. Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott, Francesco Molinari and three others (-10): A three-time winner this season, Schauffele never playing himself into the mix came as a surprise. Having been victorious in his last two starts, the Olympic gold medalist sees another major championship season come and go without entering the winner's circle. He has had his chances throughout the years, most recently at the 2021 Masters, but 2022 will be a forgettable effort.
T21. Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick, Scottie Scheffler and four others (-9): The 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year made some noise on Saturday with back-to-back eagles, thrusting himself onto the fringe of contention. Later stumbling home, Lowry was unable to maintain this momentum and became a non-factor in this Open. For how consistent he has been, he ought to be disappointed with his play as he only factored in one major championship this season with that being his T3 finish at the Masters. Scheffler, meanwhile, had an outside chance to climb up the leaderboard but instead went the opposite direction with a shaky putter and inconsistent play Sunday.
T28. Will Zalatoris, Tony Finau, Corey Conners and three others (-8): Twice a runner up in major championships this season, Zalatoris should take pride in how he played on golf's biggest stage. He came into this week as one of two men who had finished inside the top 10 in each major and will leave having come up a few shots short of collecting all four. Zalatoris withdrew from his Open debut last year due to a wrist injury and looked to be up to the challenge of links golf in his first go around 72 holes.
Rick Gehman, Kyle Porter and Mark Immelman breakdown Cameron Smith's 2022 Open Championship victory. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.