Rare air for Cameron Smith: Ponte Vedra resident becomes first since Jack Nicklaus to win Players and British Open in same season

Cameron Smith acknowledges the gallery after putting out on the fifth green at St. Andrews on Sunday during the final round of the British Open.
Cameron Smith acknowledges the gallery after putting out on the fifth green at St. Andrews on Sunday during the final round of the British Open.

Cameron Smith's putter proved lethal once again in the final round of a huge golf tournament.

Smith birdied five holes in a row from Nos. 10-14, then broke from a momentary tie with Cameron Young with a 3-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to win the 150th Open Championship on Sunday at 20-under-par 268, his third PGA Tour title this season and his first major.

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Smith, a native of Australia and a Ponte Vedra Beach resident, shot 64, the lowest final- round score to win at St. Andrews, and became the first player to shoot two 64s in a major.

He also became only the second man to win The Players Championship and golf's oldest championship in the same season. Jack Nicklaus won The Players at the Sawgrass Country Club and the Open in 1978, also at St. Andrews.

Smith is one of five to win The Players and the Open under the age of 30, joining McIlroy, David Duval, Tiger Woods and Sandy Lyle.

"The Players was a big confidence booster," Smith said during his post-round interview. "I knew it would just be a matter of time before winning one of these [a major championship]."

Smith matched the major championship record to par, last reached by Dustin Johnson in the 2020 Masters, and broke Tiger Woods' record of 19-under for an Open at St. Andrews. He is the first Australian to win at St. Andrews since Kel Nagle in 1960, when he beat Arnold Palmer.

Smith overtook 54-hole co-leader Rory McIlroy with his surge on the back. McIlroy (70) didn't miss a green but failed to convert one birdie opportunity after another and finished third at 18-under.

Young, playing with Smith, eagled the 18th hole on a 17-foot putt to tie Smith at 19-under. However, Smith, who needed only 12 putts on the back nine, rapped the winning putt in the back of the cup to become the first Australian to win the Open since Greg Norman in 1993 and the first to win a major since Jason Day at the 2015 PGA.

"I'm definitely going to find out how many beers fit in this thing," Smith said during a post-round interview, referring to the oldest trophy in professional golf, the Claret Jug.

Smith's round harkened back to his 66 to win The Players. He needed only 23 putts that day, had two streaks of four birdies in a row and rallied from two shots off the lead to win.

McIlroy, the crowd favorite all week to end his eight-year major championship drought, missed only one green over the final 36 holes but needed nine more putts than Smith for the tournament.

McIlroy's last birdie attempt at No. 17, from 15 feet, barely missed. At the last, he had to hole out front in front of the green but sent the pitch past the hole.

Contact Garry Smits at gsmits@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Cameron Smith becomes first since Jack Nicklaus to win Players and British Open in same season