The Open: Third-round woes motivated Smith for final-day heroics

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Open champion Cameron Smith revealed his third-round slump provided all the incentive he needed to get his act together and claim victory with a stunning 64 at St Andrews on Sunday.

The leader after 36 holes, it was widely thought Smith had blown his chances with a scruffy 73 on Saturday which left him four shots adrift of leading duo Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland.

However, a run of five birdies in a row after the turn in his final round put Smith in the ascendancy and he never looked back, showing nerves of steel to save par on 17 before making another gain at the last to render playing partner Cameron Young's eagle immaterial.

The Australian roared to his maiden major after undercutting crowd favourite McIlroy's Sunday score by six strokes, while he was a huge 10 shots better than Hovland across the concluding 18 holes.

Speaking about Saturday's backslide, Smith – who finished on 20 under, a shot ahead of Young – said: "I think I was really frustrated with how the round went.

"I just really put it down to links golf. I think you really have those days on these courses where you get a bit of a weird bounce here and there and puts you in a bad spot.

"So, I shrugged it off pretty good, I think, last night. I really didn't dwell on it too much.

"But to go out there and really stick my head down and keep making birdies and keep making putts, yeah, it was really cool. I think that [Saturday's disappointment] definitely helped."

Smith will have to wait before he can properly celebrate with his close family and friends, as his dad made what proved to be an ill-advised decision not to head over to Fife to see his son in action at the 150th Open Championship.

"I don't have any family here. I've got all my team here," he said.

"My dad was actually meant to come over, and he pulled out in the last minute basically. I had a quick chat with him before. He's kicking himself now.

"I really wish he was here, too. It would have been such a cool week, even without this, to be at the home of golf. Dad loves his golf as well. It would have been awesome."

The Champion Golfer of the Year – whose score of 268 is a record in an Open at St Andrews – had some warm words of praise for McIlroy, who missed out on a second Claret Jug and first major since 2014.

"He's obviously a great player," said Smith after finishing two strokes clear of the Northern Irishman.

"He's one of those guys that you can't help but stop when he's hitting balls on the range, and he just keeps knocking on doors every week, it seems like.

"He's probably the most consistent player out here.

"He's going to get a major, I'm sure, very soon. He's just really solid. For me, I've played with Rory a few times, and there's really nothing that you can fault."

Asked about the mullet hairstyle that makes him so distinctive and whether he would keep it, the 28-year-old added: "I think it's going to stay, mate!"

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