Cameron Smith’s aggressiveness on the TPC Louisiana’s water-lined 16th hole appeared to doom his team’s chances of winning the Zurich Classic when his 294-yard drive bounced off an embankment near the green and into the water.
Smith’s teammate, fellow Australian Marc Leishman, then flipped the script with a deft chip.
Leishman made birdie after a penalty drop in the rough, about 23 feet from the pin, pulling him and Smith into a tie with the South African duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel that wasn’t broken until the Aussies won the first playoff hole Sunday.
“(Smith) hit a really good shot. It was the right club and the right shot, just drifted a little in the wind,” Leishman said. “I was just concentrating on my game and I was lucky enough to be on the up slope.
“It wasn’t the hardest chip in the world, but under the conditions, well, I won’t say it was a must-make, but it was certainly very helpful that it went in.”
The Australians forced the playoff by shooting a 2-under 70 in alternate-shot play at the PGA Tour’s lone regular-season team event for a four-round 268. Oosthuizen and Schwartzel began the round with a one-stroke lead, but shot a 71 with three pars and two bogeys.
“It was really tough,” said Smith, whose previous victory came at the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2020. “That back nine was brutal, but we hung in there.”
It’s Smith’s third career victory and second at the Zurich, which he won with Jonas Blixt in 2017, the first year New Orleans’ PGA Tour stop switched from a traditional individual format to an event featuring 80 two-man teams. That first victory also came in a playoff.
“I guess I’m good at picking good partners,” Smith said. “We had such a good week on and off the golf course.”
It was Smith’s best result since tying for second at the pandemic-delayed 2020 Masters last November. It’s also was his sixth top 10 since the current tour season started.
It was Leishman’s sixth career victory, his best result since tying for fifth at the Masters this month and his first win since the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open.
Smith and Leishman each earned $1.07 million for the victory — a result that also forced Smith to address a promise he’d made to cut his mullet hair style when he won a tournament.
“I would have to apologise to my girlfriend; it’s not going away,” Smith said. “I feel like it’s part of me now.”
Leishman affirmed Smith’s decision, noting that Smith “has got a cult following now” because of his hair.
“You should hear the fans out there,” Leishman said. “They’re all over it. It’s awesome.”
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