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Cameron Smith makes it consecutive Australian PGA Championships

Smith makes it two in a row at RACV Royal Pines (Photo: Bruce Young)
Cameron Smith has today become the first player to win consecutive Australian PGA Championship trophies since Robert Allenby completed the task in 2001 and in doing so has added further to his growing reputation as one of Australia’s elite and potentially a major championship winner.

His two-shot victory over Marc Leishman at RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast was hard fought as, after starting the day three ahead, the 25 year old actually fell two behind Leishman at one stage after dropping two shots early then watching his playing partner Leishman birdie four of his first eight holes to go two ahead.

Leishman was still two ahead when both players birdied the 12th but the tide and the outcome turned in Smith’s favour when Smith birdied the 13th and 15th and Leishman dropped shots at the 14th and 16th.

Smith then led by two with two to play and although the prospect of a powerful Leishman finish was still a possibility it was soon quashed when he the Victorian could only par the 17th and missed the green at the last after Smith opened the door when he too missed the green a few moments earlier.

Both players were able to save par and the difference was two with another three shots back to the pair who shared 3rd place England's Ross McGowan and the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Matthew Millar.

For Smith the victory completes his best year in professional golf having recorded top 5 finishes at the Masters and in one of the WGC events and having made it to the Tour Championship which places him amongst the best on the PGA Tour.

His victory today is projected to move him to 28th in the World Ranking - his highest ever ranking.

"Yeah, I wasn't really feeling nervous", said Smith when asked that very question. "Hit a bit of a crappy tee shot on 1. Probably got a little bit unlucky to end up where it was, but that's golf. I've been pretty fortunate all week with kicks and bounces and stuff. To get one bad one like that, it's bound to happen.

"From there on basically I thought I hit really good shots.  I hit a really good shot into 3, a really good shot into 2, a really good shot into 3, a good shot into 4, and nothing was ‑‑ you know, they were all ‑‑ it was just so windy, it was hard to judge how far the ball was going to go.  The wind direction was a little bit different today, which was a little bit mind boggling type thing.  Yeah, just took it on the chin and tried to stay positive and that was it."

So how much of a better player does Smith believes he is now compared to the player who won this trophy twelve months ago?

"I've definitely improved a lot over the last year. I've put in a lot of hard work and I've just stuck to my kind of process, goals, stuff I have to do during the week, sticking to a schedule in my off weeks, which is something that I probably ‑‑ I never did. 

"So I think all that stuff, and then just getting stronger in the gym.  I mean, I'm hitting the ball probably 10 metres further off the tee this year and it's just allowed me to be a little bit more aggressive into the greens. You know, have a couple less clubs in. It's paid off.  I haven't really done anything different, I've just done everything that I do better."

Smith's world ranking is expected to be just inside the top 30 as a result of his win and when asked if he has specific goals to take that higher next year he responded;

"I would love to get into the top‑20 by the end of this year, it's definitely the next goal. I think that's the next big step for myself is to get myself in there and get myself in a lot of situations where I can win golf tournaments and that's what I want to do."

Marc Leishman and caddie decision making on the tee at the reachable par 4 8th.

For the normally unflappable Leishman it was no doubt a gut-wrenching loss having taken the lead and appearing as the player more in control over the first few holes of today's final round.

Leishman, now clearly Australia's second best player, has yet to win a significant title in Australian golf and to let the chance go begging was no doubt frustrating for the four time PGA Tour event winner.

"Yeah definitely disappointed at the moment but you're always happy for Cam," said Leishman in the manner we have come to expect from the classy Victorian.

"At the end of the day you are right I did want to win but I gave it my best and didn't make it. Cam played good and credit to him. 

"I'm probably ‑‑ the disappointment's probably a little bit more than I am happy for Cam at the moment, but no, I am happy for him, don't get me wrong.  We had a good fight out there today.  I'm pretty disappointed at the moment, but obviously happy for my mate.

"In Boston a couple years ago I was leading by a couple going into the back nine and lost that, that one really hurt, but this is probably equally if not more than that.  Life goes on, we'll be all right, I'll be fine. But yeah, pretty disappointed."

Matthew Millar gave his chances of snatching the 2018 Order of Merit from Jake McLeod a good shot but he ended up in a share of 3rd place with England's Ross McGowan. It was however yet another solid performance from Millar who earlier in the week was awarded the medal for the PGA Tour of Australasia's Player of the Year.

Ross McGowan - established a new course record of 63

McGowan stormed into calculations for a top three finish with a course record round of 63 bettering the previous mark of 64 set by Rhein Gibson in 2015 when the newly revamped layout at RACV Royal Pines was introduced to the golfing world for the first time.

The Order of Merit title went to Queenslander Jake McLeod who in winning that honour secures status on the 2019 European Tour as the leading player on the Order of Merit not otherwise exempt to the European Tour. It continues a meteoric rise and a fabulous summer for the 24 year old who has also earned starts in two WGC events in addition to gaining access to the European Tour.

McLeod also earned himself a start at the Open Championship courtesy of his 3rd place finish at the Australian Open ensuring 2019 will take him places he has never been previously.

"Just stoked right now," said McLeod. "Honestly, can't believe it.  I think a few tournaments ago I didn't even think about it and that first win at New South Wales Open and in contention at the Aussie Open was nice. Yeah, it feels great."

RACV Royal Pines will again host the PGA Championship in 2019 and if this week was anything to go by the golf course and the venue continue to establish themselves as a worthy venue for one of Australian golf's flagship events.

 

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