Cameron Smith Claims Tournament of Champions Title
CAMERON SMITH, the man with the worst haircut on the PGA Tour, started 2022 with a sensational performance to win the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii with a mind-boggling 72-hole total of 258 - THIRTY FOUR under par, a new scoring record on the PGA Tour. He shot rounds of 65, 64, 64 and 65 to move to third place in the FedEx Cup standings.
The Australian went toe to toe with world number one Jon Rahm for the final two rounds and came out on top. He now heads to the Sony Open and it would be a brave man who would bet against him winning again in a part of the world that he simply adores.
The scoring was mind-boggling. Rahm finished second on 33 under, with another Australian, Matt Jones, finishing the week on 32 under.
“That was intense,” said Smith. “This was a day that I won’t forget in a hurry. We wanted to get to 35 under but missed it by a shot. My golf game is in a really good place. I spent the past few months working hard on my swing and it has paid off.”
Smith will take huge confidence from finishing ahead of Rahm, with the Spaniard playing brilliant golf - he finished with rounds of 61 and 66. Rahm made 32 birdies and an eagle and still didn’t win. Just stop and think about that. Jones went even better over the weekend - his final two rounds were 62 and 61, 23 under par, featuring 15 birdies and four eagles and not a single dropped shot.
Rahm arrived in Hawaii knowing that had Collin Morikawa finished ahead of him then he would be displaced at the top of the world rankings. He has played little or no golf since the Ryder Cup but showed that he is going to take some catching at the top of the world rankings. Morikawa played well enough, finishing in a tie for fifth place after a final round of 62. But he ended the week nine shots behind Smith.
Patrick Cantlay, the FedEx Cup champion, had played no competitive golf since the Ryder Cup but ended the week in fourth place after finishing on 26 under. And there was also an encouraging performance from Justin Thomas. He opened with a 74 but followed it with rounds of 67, 61 and 65 to share fifth place with Morikawa.
There was a field of 38 at Kapalua - Jason Kokrak finished last on seven under par.
The win was an important step in Smith’s evolution as he looks to prove himself against the best. He held the lead outright after the first two rounds and then shared it with Rahm through three rounds before closing the deal.
“Rahm’s the best golfer in the world and there's many reasons why he is,” Smith said. "He flushes it and it seems like he drains every putt he looks at, so it was nice to overcome that and kind of give some punches back.
“I just played really solid the whole week. Obviously being a leader is not easy. Restless sleeps. I feel like I spent a lot of time looking at the ceiling in bed this week. I haven't done that before. It was nice to kind of see where my game's at against some of the best players in the world. I've been working hard and it's paid off early in the season.”
The result catapults Smith to 10th in the world rankings, his first appearance inside the top 10, and to third in the FedExCup. “It took me a while to get into the top 20, so it’s really cool," Smith said after raising the trophy at Kapalua. "That was one of my goals this year, to get into the top 10. It's nice that that's done and dusted. Hopefully, I can keep cruising up those world rankings.”
Smith has a great chance this week to do just that, as he heads to the Sony Open in Hawaii. He won at Waialae CC in 2020 and now is one of just six players to have secured the PGA Tour's Hawaii double.
Smith's record 34-under performance at Kapalua took a record from Ernie Els, who held the Tour's scoring record with a 31-under total at the Tournament of Champions in 2003 (Rahm and Jones also beat Els' mark).
Smith is an unassuming character who refuses to let his success get to his head. “There's no real reason to change my personality. I think my dad would whip me, to be honest, if I did,” he said. “It’s just how I've been brought up. I've been brought up to be kind of the modest guy that respects everyone … and why would you try to be someone you’re not?”
Last year Smith was asked what he’d do if he won the $15 million FedExCup bonus. He said he’d help his family and maybe buy some fishing gear. After earning $1.476 million in Maui? “I'll have to sleep on that one, to be honest. I mean, I'm quite content with where I'm at. I know mum's car's probably getting four or five years old, so maybe a new car for mum.”
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