Way Down Under Par
Australian Smith breaks PGA Tour record with 34-under 258, edges Rahm for title
KAPALUA — The PGA Tour has some rewriting to do to its record book, thanks to an unprecedented sprint to the finish line Sunday at the Kapalua Plantation Course.
Cameron Smith held off Jon Rahm and Matt Jones to claim the Sentry Tournament of Champions title with a PGA Tour scoring record of 34-under 258. Smith’s score broke the previous under-par record for a standard four-round tournament of 31 under set by Ernie Els in his 2003 win here.
Only 10 players have ever finished a PGA Tour event with fewer strokes than Smith was able to do on the gargantuan 7,596-yard Plantation Course, the only par-73 on the PGA Tour calendar.
“Mate, it was intense,” the 28-year-old Australian said after his fourth PGA Tour title and second in Hawaii — he won the 2020 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club and will play there this week. “Jonny and I played well the whole day. We had Matty in the group in front lighting it up as well. So, yeah, unreal round, something I’ll never forget for sure.”
Smith, who entered this week as the No. 21-ranked player in the world and will leave it in the top 10, was a 25-year-old rookie on the 2019 International team in the Presidents Cup that Els captained.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Smith said. “Obviously Ernie was one of my idols growing up. I mean, I don’t really have many things to brag about to Ernie, to be honest. He’s got a lot of stuff over me. But, yeah, to take this one off him is pretty cool.”
Smith admitted he was a bit wrung out at the finish of the historic day.
“I mean, I was just trying to hit one shot at a time,” Smith said. “I know that sounds cliche. We spoke about it earlier in the day. We wanted to get to 35 under. We missed it by one. So, I mean, in that sense, disappointing but it’s great to come away with the ‘W.’ “
Only three players had ever finished 30 under or better in a PGA Tour event before Smith, Rahm and Jones did here on Sunday, at least since 1950 when the Tour started keeping such statistics.
In addition to Els’ previous record here 19 years ago, Jordan Spieth finished 30 under to win here in 2016, and Dustin Johnson reached the mark to win at the 2020 FedEx St. Jude Championship.
Ahead of world No. 1 Rahm by one shot on the mammoth 675-yard 18th hole, Smith smoked his drive 385 yards, hit his second shot 257 yards to within 92 feet from the hole and rolled his eagle putt to within 3 1/2 feet.
He sank his birdie putt to cap a scoring display the PGA Tour had simply never seen before.
The soft-spoken Smith went 65-64-64-65 to hold the lead outright after the first, second and final rounds — he and Rahm were tied on top going into the final day.
Rahm made four birdies in five holes — from Nos. 11 to 15 — and added another on the 18th and was still a shot short, even though the Spaniard was two strokes lower than anyone else had ever finished a standard tournament in Tour history.
“There’s always something you can do,” Rahm said. “If we go back on every shot of every day I could point out a lot of mistakes. The obvious one yesterday on 4. Hitting one ball to an unplayable area on this course, that’s a pretty bad shot.
“But if we focus on today, there’s a couple moments that I could have hit a better shot. I think 1, 2 and 3, I gave myself good chances to make putts. I just didn’t make them.”
Rahm said he was not paying attention to anyone in the 38-player field other than Smith — the pair started the day tied at 26 under, five strokes clear of the field. One group ahead, however, Jones was vaulting up the leaderboard.
Jones shot a 12-under 61 to match the one-day-old tournament round record that was set by Justin Thomas and matched by Rahm on Saturday. The Australian shot 23-under 123 on the weekend, breaking Els’ all-time Tour tournament scoring mark … and finishing third.
“I mean, you just have a lot of opportunities out there and I was lucky enough to make some putts today and yesterday and then holed out a few shots today for — I holed out one for an eagle and chipped one in yesterday for an eagle, so those always help the score,” Jones said.
Jones was left to shake his head when he was asked about breaking Els’ vaunted mark, only to miss holding the trophy by two spots.
“It just goes to show the depth of the PGA Tour and how good the players are,” Jones said. “If you told me I would have shot 32 under, I would have been more than happy to sit in the clubhouse and let everyone play and see what happens.”
Patrick Cantlay’s 26-under 266 for fourth place would have won 19 of the previous 22 tournaments here that went the four-round distance. The 2013 event was limited to three rounds due to inclement weather.
With Smith at 30 under and Rahm one stroke back on the 12th hole, Jones joined the runaway party, reaching 28 under by holing out from 85 yards away on the 389-yard 13th for an eagle 2.
Smith caught Els’ mark with a 7-foot birdie putt on the 13th. Rahm stayed just one back with a 15-foot birdie make moments earlier.
Smith kept up his remarkable run by driving the green on the 284-yard, par-4 14th — he left his 30-foot eagle putt 4 feet short, but made the birdie to get to 32 under. Rahm kept the heat on with a 4-foot birdie putt to tie Els’ mark himself.
Smith missed a 27-foot eagle putt on the 548-yard, par-5 15th, but tapped in for birdie to get to 33 under. Rahm made a 7-footer for birdie to get to 32 under.
With Smith and Rahm both parring the 16th, Jones again put pressure on with a 52-foot birdie putt on the 549-yard, par-4 17th — that monster putt moved Jones to 31 under.
World No. 2 Collin Morikawa got his 2022 calendar year going in a strong way with a final-round 62. He finished in a tie for fifth at 267.
“Yeah, not going to complain with an 11 under, I mean scores out here this week, obviously it was a little too late, but I needed it, I needed it just because as kind of a boost for the rest of the year,” said Morikawa, who had a shot at overtaking Rahm for No. 1 in the world ranking this week. “Coming into this week I didn’t really know exactly how the game was going to play out. Kind of just chugged along, put one foot in front of the other the first few days.
“But the game was feeling good yesterday, I just made a couple mistakes and today just came out firing and never stopped.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
PGA Tour Sentry Tournament of Champions
Sunday’s Final Round
At Kapalua Plantation Course
Cameron Smith (500), $1,476,000 65-64-64-65–258 -34
Jon Rahm (300), $810,000 66-66-61-66–259 -33
Matt Jones (190), $515,000 70-67-62-61–260 -32
Patrick Cantlay (135), $400,000 66-67-66-67–266 -26
Collin Morikawa (100), $286,000 68-70-67-62–267 -25
Justin Thomas (100), $286,000 74-67-61-65–267 -25
Daniel Berger (100), $286,000 66-66-66-69–267 -25
Kevin Kisner (83), $217,500 69-68-66-65–268 -24
Sungjae Im (83), $217,500 67-67-65-69–268 -24
Cam Davis (73), $188,000 69-68-66-66–269 -23
Marc Leishman (73), $188,000 69-67-65-68–269 -23
Xander Schauffele (65), $170,000 69-67-68-66–270 -22
Kevin Na (59), $155,000 67-68-68-68–271 -21
Hideki Matsuyama (59), $155,000 69-65-68-69–271 -21
Seamus Power (52), $132,500 71-65-69-67–272 -20
Talor Gooch (52), $132,500 68-70-67-67–272 -20
Patrick Reed (52), $132,500 74-64-66-68–272 -20
Max Homa (52), $132,500 72-67-65-68–272 -20
Tony Finau (46), $123,000 70-69-69-65–273 -19
Sam Burns (46), $123,000 72-64-68-69–273 -19
Jordan Spieth (42), $119,000 71-69-68-66–274 -18
Stewart Cink (42), $119,000 69-67-67-71–274 -18
Billy Horschel (38), $115,500 72-67-70-66–275 -17
Si Woo Kim (38), $115,500 71-65-69-70–275 -17
Erik van Rooyen (34), $113,000 67-70-70-69–276 -16
Garrick Higgo (34), $113,000 68-69-69-70–276 -16
Bryson DeChambeau (34), $113,000 69-68-67-72–276 -16
Brooks Koepka (30), $110,500 68-68-72-69–277 -15
Joel Dahmen (30), $110,500 68-69-69-71–277 -15
Viktor Hovland (27), $108,000 69-69-73-67–278 -14
Phil Mickelson (27), $108,000 71-69-70-68–278 -14
Harris English (27), $108,000 73-70-68-67–278 -14
Branden Grace (23), $105,500 69-69-74-67–279 -13
K.H. Lee (23), $105,500 72-71-69-67–279 -13
Lucas Glover (21), $103,500 74-69-70-69–282 -10
Abraham Ancer (21), $103,500 72-69-71-70–282 -10
Lucas Herbert (19), $102,000 69-73-68-74–284 -8
Jason Kokrak (18), $101,000 72-70-72-71–285 -7
Tournament of Champions winners at the Kapalua Plantation Course (x-won in playoff)