Brilliant Cameron Smith wins Open as Rory McIlroy's great drought continues

Brilliant Cameron Smith wins Open as Rory McIlroy’s great drought continues

CAMERON SMITH OF AUSTRALIA produced a stunning final round to win the 150th Open Championship and inflict even more misery on a shocked Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy held a two-shot lead midway through the final round at St. Andrews and carded a 70 with no bogey, but that wasn’t enough to end his eight-year losing streak in the game’s biggest tournaments.

Smith, who held the lead halfway before falling four off the pace with a 73 in the third round, shot eight birdies – including five in a row from the 10th – to card his second 64 of the week and 20 under to finish par, beating the previous Best of 19 Under on the Old Course set by Tiger Woods in 2000.

American Cameron Young made a brilliant eagle on the 18th in his last 65 to force Smith to a two-foot hole for his final birdie, requiring McIlroy to have his own eagle to force a four-hole playoff.

However, the 33-year-old failed to create a magic moment and had to settle for par which meant Smith celebrated an exceptional win at the Home of Golf.

McIlroy and Ryder Cup teammate Viktor Hovland started the day four strokes clear of the pursuers after reaching the third rounds of 66, with Hovland stumbling first as he 3-putted the fourth from distance.

A faulty drive then meant Hovland was unable to get the fifth par-5 in two, but McIlroy found the putting surface easy with a towering iron shot and made two putts for his first birdie of the day, at two to come forward.

Smith, who had covered the front nine in 34, shagged 10th and 11th to close short inside one of McIlroy only for the Northern Irishman to react immediately.

Despite driving the green on the 10th, McIlroy was on the huge shared green closer to the pin on the 8th but coolly two-putted from 125 feet.

Smith made it three straight birdies after driving the green on the par 12th, and when he also holed out on the 13th from 18ft, McIlroy once again had company at the top of the leaderboard.

An inspired Smith then took the absolute lead, extending his yardie streak to five by making two putts from the back of the green on the par-5 14, which proved to be over McIlroy in the group behind.

Smith looked set to fall victim to an infamous 17th place finish when his approach fell short and left his path to the flag blocked by the Road Hole bunker, but the world number six calmly putt to 12ft and holed in for an important par.

McIlroy was unable to convert his long yardie putt on the 17th when Smith putted from just before the 18th green to set up a tap-in birdie before playing partner Young potted for an eagle from 15 feet.

Smith calmly converted his birdie putt and watched as McIlroy was unable to contradict him and call for an overdue fifth major.

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McIlroy won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014 but an ankle injury sustained playing football meant he could not attempt to retain the Claret Jug at St Andrews the following year.

Admitting this week it made him feel like he had the title defense he never had, the 33-year-old enjoyed an ideal start with an opening 66, the same result he scored to complete his wire-to-wire Victory at Hoylake to begin with.

It continued a welcome trend of good starts for the Northern Irishman, whose opener 73 in April’s Masters meant he’s 35 over par overall since his last US PGA win in 2014 in the first round of the majors.

He’s since started with a 65 in the US PGA and a 67 at the US Open but was all too aware he couldn’t convert those into overdue wins, a third-round 74 hurting at Southern Hills and a 73 at the same time internship Brookline proves to be just as costly.

There was no let-up in the competition this time for McIlroy, but he simply had no answer to an incredible performance from Smith, who adds a major title to his Players Championship win earlier this year.

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