Little known Cameron Davis, a rookie Sydney-based professional with an impeccable amateur pedigree, came from six shots behind crowd favourite and tournament drawcard Jason Day with a stunning final round of 7-under 64 at The Australian Golf Club.
While Day battled to a 2-over 73, Davis surged with six birdies and an eagle against a lone bogey to eventually finish 11-under and one ahead of Sweden’s Jonas Blixt and 2015 winner Matt Jones.
Davis, Blixt and Jones all also earned starts at the 2018 Open at Carnoustie as the best three finishers in the top 10 not otherwise qualified.
Day slipped to outright fifth at 8-under, one behind fellow Queenslander and PGA Tour member Cameron Smith who was alone in fourth.
World Number Two Jordan Spieth saved his best golf till last with a 4-under 67 Sunday to reach 6-under and eighth alone but it was the play of Davis that stunned all on hand at The Australian Golf Club.
Perhaps no-one was more surprised, however, than the man himself who was lost for words more than once during his post-victory press conference.
“It’s a little bit numb at the moment,” he said when asked the cliché question about how he felt.
“I think I just didn’t expect to be in this situation. Even though I had a great round I just didn’t think I was going to be far enough up the leaderboard.
“But to finish my round and see where everyone was at, I was kind of surprised. I’m just relieved right now, that’s all I can say.”
Cameron Davis during his post-victory press conference.
Davis’ final round brilliance was unquestionable, his score the best of the day by two strokes and coming in the afternoon breeze amid the white hot pressure of playing for his national title.
It is perhaps testament to the mental fortitude of the 22-year-old that while he moved forward despite the distractions several of his more fancied rivals went the other way.
Chief among them was World Number 12, overnight leader and anointed winner in the eyes of the majority, Jason Day.
Beginning the day with a one-shot lead and having shown himself to be a class above the bulk of the field over the opening three days, the final round unraveled in stunning fashion for the 30-year-old beginning with a clumsy double bogey at the ninth.
After finding a fairway bunker off the tee the former World Number One caught the lip with his second and his ball dived into water short of the green.
From there he hit a poor pitch and was unable to hole from more than 30 feet for bogey, the beginning of a run of backwards momentum.
Despite not having his best game over the four days Day was all class in his play at The Australian, his course management and tenacity a lesson for all up and comers in the field.
He and Spieth showed why they have both been the top ranked player in the game at various times in the past three years despite neither being in possession of their ‘A game’ this week.
Davis, too, had little to draw on in the middle two rounds after opening with a 63 to be outright leader then stumbling with 72 and 74.
A missed cut at last week’s NSW Open also gave little indication of what was to come at The Australian though his recent form under pressure had been good.
Playing the second stage of the qualifying school for the secondary American circuit, the Web.com Tour, Davis earned a berth in the final stage with a T9 finish and now has a chance to earn playing rights in America.
None of that, though, was at the forefront of his mind late Sunday. All he could think about was the fact he was the 102nd Australian Open Champion.
There’ll be plenty of time to consider what that might ultimately mean in the coming weeks.
CAMERON DAVIS TALKS TO REPORTERS AFTER HIS SHOCK AUSTRALIAN OPEN WIN:
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