Cameron Smith has become the first player to win successive Australian PGA Championships since Robert Allenby in 2001 after launching a stunning late comeback in the final round at RACV Royal Pines Resort.
A wayward drive on the first hole and a second bogey on the par-4 fourth saw Smith’s three-shot overnight lead quickly evaporate as close friend Marc Leishman took control of the tournament, chipping in on the fourth hole to assume the role of front-runner.
As Leishman made the turn in 4-under par Smith was fighting off nerves to be 1-over before three birdies in the space of four holes midway through the back nine turned the tournament on its head.
The pair both made birdie at the par-5 12th as Leishman maintained a two-shot advantage, a lead Smith was able to halve with a birdie three at the par-4 13th.
The first stroke of ill luck to befall Leishman occurred on the 14th when his putt for par did a complete lap of the hole and stayed out but it was at the par-5 15th where the golf gods truly conspired against him.
A wild drive by Smith appeared destined for the lake on the left side of the fairway only to bounce off a rock and forward into the left rough. His second shot flared out to the right and came to rest just behind the signage on the par-3 16th tee.
He was able to take relief from the signage and used his world-class short game to play a pitch shot to inside a metre, the successful birdie putt putting the 25-year-old one shot in front with three holes to play.
A Leishman bogey at the 16th doubled Smith’s lead and when the pair shared pars on the 17th the defending champion put one hand back on the trophy, reclaiming possession with a par at the last.
Smith’s former Queensland Boys teammate Jake McLeod also endured a nervous afternoon before being declared the winner of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit which brings with it a one-year exemption onto the European Tour and entry into two World Golf Championship events.
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