Smith and Blixt pre­vail at Zurich Clas­sic

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LOS AN­GE­LES: Aus­tralia’s Cameron Smith clinched his maiden PGA Tour ti­tle yes­ter­day, rolling in a birdie putt on the fourth hole of sud­den death to clinch vic­tory with part­ner Jonas Blixt at the Zurich Clas­sic.

Smith, who had ear­lier missed a birdie putt to win on the open­ing play­off hole, made no mis­take at the sec­ond op­por­tu­nity to seal a win over Kevin Kis­ner and Scott Brown at the TPC Louisiana.

Smith, who earned a PGA Tour ex­emp­tion through to 2019 with the vic­tory, was lost for words im­me­di­ately af­ter his tri­umph.

“I can’t even talk,” Smith told re­porters on the green, his eyes brim­ming with tears.

It was left to part­ner Blixt to pay trib­ute to the 23-year-old, who sig­nalled his prom­ise with a fourth-place fin­ish at the 2015 US Open af­ter reach­ing the event through qual­i­fy­ing.

“I feel like I had the best part­ner here,” Blixt said of Smith.

“He’s been play­ing great all week. He’s go­ing to be a su­per­star one day. I’m very proud of him. Hav­ing seen the way he plays golf, the sky’s the limit for him,” Blixt added.

The play­off had gone to a fourth hole af­ter play­ers on both sides fluffed chances to win on the open­ing three holes of sud­den death.

Kis­ner and Brown both squan­dered birdie putts on the 18th to open with a pair of pars, leav­ing Smith with his first op­por­tu­nity to roll in a birdie putt for the win.

But the Aus­tralian’s nerves got the bet­ter of him and he sent his shot just wide, graz­ing the lip of the cup on the way.

It was Kis­ner’s turn to miss a birdie putt to win on the sec­ond hole of sud­den death, again on the 18th. That sent the group to a third hole, the par-three ninth. Af­ter Kis­ner and Brown hit tee shots onto the green but far from the pin, Blixt seemed to have seized con­trol with a su­perb five-iron which rolled up six feet short of the flag.

But once again with vic­tory beg­ging, nerves struck again, the Swede’s putt trick­ling past to send it back to the 18th for the fourth play­off hole and Smith’s chance for re­demp­tion.

Kis­ner and Brown had forced the play­off af­ter a sen­sa­tional fi­nale to Sun­day’s fourth round which saw Kis­ner hole out for an ea­gle in near-dark­ness on the 18th to de­prive Smith and Blixt of the win.

He’s (Cameron Smith) been play­ing great all week. He’s go­ing to be a su­per­star one day. I’m very proud of him. Hav­ing seen the way he plays golf, the sky’s the limit for him.

JONAS BLIXT

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