Smith finished six shots behind winner Patrick Reed and was propelled by a final round 67 which included a run of five birdies in six holes beginning at the 12th.
The 24-year-old improved seven positions from his overnight standing and while one of the benefits from his high finish will be an automatic invite to next year it is likely that his standing in the game by then would have given him that anyway.
Smith’s final nine holes of 30, after he had trod water on his way to the turn, turned an average week into something very special and again proved he can compete against the absolute elite of the game.
“I saw a good putt go in on the 10th and that set things up for the rest of the back nine,” he said. “I hit a really good shot into 16 also and came up a little short but 6 under around here on the back nine I will take any day.
“The best part of today was to get a little bit of confidence going into next week with the driver. I struggled with that earlier in the week but hit it really good today so that is perhaps the best thing I will take out of today."
What Smith will also take out of the day is a cheque for US$386,000 along with an expected elevation to a career-high 39th position in the world rankings.
Marc Leishman reversed a round that was spiralling backwards with a superb finishing burst of his own, five birdies in his last seven holes seeing him finish one shot behind Smith and on his own in 9th position.
The Victorian’s driver had deserted him for much of the week but he found something after a 4th bogey at the 11th saw him drop to 3 over for the day.
“It was nice to finish off like that and make it a top‑10 and get me back here next year. But, yeah, not the day that I was after but something happened with the driver, which will help me for the rest of the year.
“You try to hit it a bit harder and further and worked that out. It only took me 50 something holes. But, yeah, better to find that way than never. Putting is feeling good. The greens calmed down a bit. I struggled early to get the pace of the greens. You've got to adjust.
“You'd rather have two good first rounds, obviously you'd want to have four good rounds, but you're right in the thick of it and amongst it on the weekend rather than play average the first two days and have a back door top‑10, and never have a chance to win. Plenty of positives to take out of it. Looking forward to next week and the next major.”
Jason Day continued his recovery from his horror Thursday to eventually finish in a share of 20th.
“I had it going at 3 under and obviously I was out of the tournament but was just trying to get some momentum going into the next few weeks after a two-week break coming up,” said Day.
“There was some good solid stuff but didn’t quite hit the irons as close as I could. It was much better today but overall an average week.”
Adam Scott closed with a 71 - his second straight round under par - to end the week at 1 over and tied for 32nd.
“It was a decent weekend but it is never easy out here if you are not firing on all cylinders," said the 2013 champion. "There was some good stuff on the weekend and something to take away and hopefully get some momentum going on tour soon.”
RULES: BALL-MARKING ON THE GREEN
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