Mar 15th, 2022
Cameron Smith wins The Players Championship
Lahiri and Casey come up just short as Australian grabs the big prize
Words: GolfPunk Photography: Getty Images
Smith closed with a six-under-par 66 to finish on thirteen-under, with both Lahiri and Casey carding 69 to finish on twelve-under and eleven-under, respectively.
"This hasn't sunk in yet," said the 28-year-old from Brisbane.
"I have knocked on the door a few times and I felt it was my time. I'm playing the best I've ever played, I hit lots of quality golf shots and did not back down."
Smith, who lives locally to the TPC Sawgrass course, had looked unassailable as he birdied five of the first six holes to go clear of the field at twelve-under. However, he inexplicably then bogeyed the next three holes to fall back.
As the Australian faltered, others started to make their move. Casey birdied the 7th and 9th to close the gap to Smith and up ahead, American Keegan Bradley was making a charge with four consecutive birdies from the ninth tee.
Lahiri, who had looked out of contention after a disastrous double-bogey at the tricky par three eighth hole, struck back with an eagle on the 11th to get back into the hunt on eleven-under.
Smith then turned on the afterburners and produced another run of four consecutive birdies to put daylight between him and the field again at thirteen-under.
As Bradly fell away with an awful bogey, double-bogey finish, it looked like Casey was the man to catch Smith. However, lady luck had other ideas.
Casey was two back from the leader standing on the 16th tee and after Smith found the trees on the left boomed a massive drive only to find it had nestled into what looked like an old pitch mark.
"It was the best tee shot I have hit all week on that hole," said Casey.
"You need a little bit of luck sometimes, don't you? That wasn't very good luck, was it? Deep down I wanted to go for it out of that lie, but it felt too risky. It would have been brave, but maybe foolish to try to go for it."
Casey may look back on that decision in years to come as Smith managed to make a great par save at the hole and then proceeded to birdie the 17th to slam the door on the Englishman.
However, the drama wasn't over. The Australian found the trees on the 18th and proceeded to do the unthinkable, chipping into the water. At that very same moment, Lahiri had birdied the 17th to move to within two shots of Smith.
However, as his countryman Adam Scott had done back in 2004 after visiting the water, Smith managed to get up and down from short of the green to retain the lead.
When Lahiri's chip for birdie on the last to force a play-off finished agonisingly just short of the hole, the celebrations for the Australian could finally begin.
Elsewhere Dustin Johnson put together an incredible second nine holes of 29 to shoot a course record nine-under 63, which saw him launch up the leaderboard into a share of ninth at seven-under.