Cameron Smith has won his first PGA Tour event in a thrilling playoff finish to secure a place at this year’s Masters.
After he had a par on the first playoff hole to win the Sony Open in Hawaii, Smith gave an emotional tribute to Australian bushfire victims, including his own family that have been caught up in the disaster.
But there was a bizarre moment post-match when an American journalist threw a curve-ball question his way about the NRL star that shares Smith’s name.
“Do you think you’ll get a call from the other Cameron Smith?” asked a reporter.
“Maybe. I hope so. He’s like my hero,” Smith replied laughing.
“I met him 2-3 years ago at a State of Origin camp. We threw the footy around, and yeh, definitely a day I’ll never forget.”
The journalist questioned whether their shared name as prominent Australian sportsmen had caused some confusion during his rise in the sports world.
“Maybe when you check in to a hotel or write a cheque or something like that?” the journalist asked.
“No, he lives down in Melbourne and I’m up in Brisbane, so definitely none of that,” Smith responded.
“And he’s like 20 years older than me.”
The line of questioning seemed to confuse others in the media room though, with another American needing some explanation.
“How about the non-footy people here…who are we talking about?” he said.
“Oh… Cameron Smith,” the Aussie golfer replied innocently, causing the room to erupt with more laughter.
“He plays rugby league. He’s one of the greats,” Smith continued.
The Queenslander made birdie on the par-5 18th hole in regulation to join final-round playing partner and overnight leader Brendan Todd at 11-under 269.
The extra holes began on the 10th in wet conditions and fading light, Smith holding his nerve with a two-putt par from 10 feet to add to his lone previous PGA title – the 2017 two-man team’s tournament in New Orleans.
Going into Sunday three shots behind Steele, Smith’s hopes faded when he made bogey on the 15th to sit two shots off the pace with three holes to play.
However, Steele missed a six-foot par putt on the 17th, and hit a wild hook from the fairway on the par-5 18th and never had a reasonable look at birdie.
The 26-year-old showed his class as he closed for a final-round two-under 68 with an up-and-down from the greenside bunker, capped by a clutch eight-foot putt.
“No one was playing good golf today, it seemed like,” Smith said.
“Just hung in there, and what do you know?”
The victory secures Smith a spot in the Masters.
“That’s been one I’ve wanted to tick off for a long time, to finally say I’ve won an event by myself. It’s quite good.”
Smith will pocket $1.188 million ($A1.7m) for his first solo PGA Tour win and moves up to fifth in the FedEx Cup standings.
A two-time Australian PGA champion, Smith’s career PGA Tour earnings have jumped to $10,645,748 ($A15.4m).
But his home and family were never far from his thoughts after the Sony Open payday. He raised $10,500 for bushfire relief at the tournament after pledging $500 for every birdie and $1000 for every eagle with his fellow Aussies in the field.
He spoke about the plight of his uncle who had lost his house and much of his farm in Tumbarumba, and was moved to Smith’s home in Brisbane.
“Every birdie putt I had, just meant that little bit more,” Smith said.
“Rather than kind of wanting to make it I almost felt like I had to make it.”
Smith fought back tears during the trophy presentation as he spoke about the bushfire crisis in Australia.
“I realise Australia is doing it tough right now and the focus is probably not on my golf for good reason. But hopefully it gave a few people reason to smile for a moment or two,” Smith said.
“Uncle Warren drove back to his place the other day and what he found was quite devastating. I kind of saw the photos and the only thing he had left was a little shed that him and his son built a few months back.
“We’re a tight-knit family and it kind of hit everyone pretty hard. It’s good to do something good, and hopefully [the win] puts a smile on their face.”
Fellow Australians Cameron Davis carded a 68 to share ninth at seven under, Marc Leishman’s 68 left him tied for 28th, while Matt Jones had a 70 to slide back to a share of 38th.
Having started the tournament at Waialae with a bogey five and a triple-bogey seven on the first two holes, Smith edged back into contention on Sunday with a topsy-turvy round which included four birdies and two bogeys.
“I didn’t feel like I played particularly well but I made the putts that I had to make,” he said. “It was a struggle all day, though, the conditions wet and a little bit windy this morning so it was a challenge for sure.”
“Things just fell into place. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck to kind of fall your way and you never know what can happen.”
Steele’s luck was the opposite, left to rue his final-round errors.
“Everything that could go wrong went wrong today,” Steele said.
Webb Simpson finished third on 10-under, while Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell hit a six-under 64 to finish one stroke back.
Webb Simpson (67) was third at 10 under while Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell jumped 19 spots with a 64 to share fourth with Americans Ryan Palmer (68) and Kevin Kisner (69).
A wet and grey final round came to life in the last hour, which is about how long it took to play the last two holes. Maintenance crew kept having to squeegee the soaked 18th green.
– with AP