Playing in only his second LIV Golf event, reigning Open Champion Cameron Smith proved that he is arguably the hottest player in world golf right now following a three-shot win at the series’ fifth tournament held at Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago.
The 29-year-old Australian, who had already won three times this year, said he felt immense pressure to prove to everyone that just because he had switched to a tour that had no cut and guaranteed prize money for all players, that his level of play would somehow drop off.
Smith fired rounds of 66, 68 and 69 for a 13-under-par total that saw him finish three shots clear of Dustin Johnson, who won the previous LIV Golf event in Boston, and Peter Ulhein.
Smith added: “That was the most pressure I’ve been under all year inside of an event. I feel as though I needed to prove to myself, and probably more so to other people, that just because I’ve changed tours doesn’t mean I’m a worse player for it. I’m still out here to win.”
Prize guys: winner Cameron Smith (centre), with runner-up Peter Uihlein (left) and third-placed Dustin Johnson (right)
Smith, who finished one stroke out of the three-man playoff won by Johnson in Boston, suffered a couple of early bogeys before bouncing back with three birdies in a five-hole stretch midway through his round. The key moment came in response to Johnson’s birdie at the par-5 7th to momentarily grab a share of the lead. Smith then drained his own birdie putt on top of Johnson’s to reacquire the lead, then followed with another birdie at the 8th to extend it.
“I think it was quite frustrating at the start of the day,” said Smith, who won $4 million in individual prize earnings. “My warm-up wasn’t fantastic. I didn’t feel like I was striking the ball as well as I had the first couple of days. I just kind of stuck in there.”
Johnson, however, did get to celebrate with his 4 Aces GC team, which won for the fourth consecutive time, completing the sweep of the US regular-season events before the Invitational Series heads overseas to Thailand and Saudi Arabia for the next two tournaments. Patrick Reed’s 68 – which included two chip-ins, one for eagle and one for birdie – and Pat Perez’ 69 led the way on Sunday, with Johnson supplying a 70.
Even though Johnson, rarely put heat on Smith on the back nine, the 4 Aces captain delivered the winning birdie on the par-5 18th for the $3m first-place team prize. Uihlein’s Smash GC, captained by Brooks Koepka, made its first appearance on the team podium and shared second-place prize money of $1.5m.
In the individual event, Sergio Garcia shot a closing 67 to finish alone in fourth, while Phil Mickelson had his best result in the series with an eight-place showing following a final round 66 that included nine birdies.
For the final leaderboard from the LIV Golf Invitational – Chicago, click here.