Aussie lost for words after maiden PGA win
CAMERON Smith was tongue-tied with elation after a super chip shot in New Orleans sealed a dramatic play-off for the young Queenslander's maiden victory on the PGA Tour.
It wasn't the $1.36 million cheque that overwhelmed him although that might come later after he stepped up as the tie-breaker with a birdie at the fourth extra hole at the Zurich Classic early Tuesday morning (AEST).
It was the emotion of his four-year quest to win his first pro event anywhere in the world that made him speechless when American on-course commentator Dotti Pepper attempted to prise a green-side reaction.
Smith, 23, patted his forehead and grinned but no words came out so it was left to Swede Jonas Blixt to offer a rich tribute instead for his partner in the four-ball and foursomes team event.
"He's going to be a superstar one day," Blixt said.
"The sky's the limit. I've never seen anything that good in an extremely long time."
It was fitting that Smith clipped a wedge from just over 50m to half a metre from the hole to set up the deciding birdie because his elite short game has earned this praise all week from Blixt and CBS golf commentator, Sir Nick Faldo, the three-time Masters champion.
Smith and Blixt had been locked in a tense run of pars and missed putts through the opening three play-off holes with American duo Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in the four-ball.
When forced to play the lake-fringed par five 18th for a third time, after the teams could not be split at the par three ninth, Smith found the fairway with his drive and flushed a three wood to get closer to the green than any of the group.
Brown and Kisner both slide their birdie putts by the hole, Blixt pulled his and it was left to Smith to settle the issue from short range.
The left hand fist pumps said it all for Smith, now secure on the rich PGA tour for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons with a bunch of prestige tournament starts.
Smith's shotmaking show in New Orleans has pitched him into the reckoning for an even bigger teams event, the Presidents Cup.
As impressive as Smith's partnership was with Blixt, his composure, team ethos and super short game stood out even more.
All are prized traits when the foursomes and four-ball of this week's event are such a rare road test for the same format at the Presidents Cup in New Jersey from September 26.
Smith's win in New Orleans will vault him to within striking distance of automatic selection among the top 10 on world rankings for Nick Price's Internationals team and put him in the picture for one of the two captain's picks.
"You can see Cam thrives on the team format and always has from his days winning with Queensland in the interstate teams event," Smith's coach Grant Field said.
"He'd definitely be an asset on a Presidents Cup team."
Field was unsurprised but in raptures over Smith's clutch pitch from a wet, downhill lie onto a ledged green at the 72nd hole to set up a birdie and entry into the sudden-death play-off.
"He's learnt a lifetime of pitch shots at 23 and has amazing creativity around the greens," Field said.
"It takes a special player to hit that shot in that situation with a potential first victory on the line."
Kisner's remarkable chip-in eagle on the same par five to force the play-off, with both teams at 27-under-par, was some shot at almost pin-bending speed.
With his playing rights secure in the US, he will be a drawcard at Australia's two big summer tournaments.
The dates for the Australia PGA were unveiled on Monday with a November-30 to December 3 slot at RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast.
Smith desperately wants to win the biggest tournament in his home state, especially after popping his head in front and fading for fifth in 2015.
After losing in a play-off last year, the Emirates Australian Open at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney (November 23-26) will be unfinished business as well.