Australian British Open champion Cameron Smith has lashed out at critics who thought he was losing his competitive edge after signing a $140m deal to join LIV Golf after winning his first tournament in the Rebel series on Sunday had won.
Smith recorded a win from behind in just his second start at the lucrative Saudi-backed circuit with a three-shot triumph over Dustin Johnson and Peter Uihlein just outside Chicago.
Smith, one of 12 major champions in Rich Harvest Farms’ 48-player field, shot a 3-under par 69 in the final round of Sunday’s 54-hole event to finish 13-under and earn first prize in to secure an amount of US$ 6 million.
“I think I probably had to prove to myself and a few others that I’m still a great player. You know I’m still out here winning golf tournaments,” Smith said.
“Proud of how I persevered today. I didn’t really have my best stuff for the first eight or nine holes, but I stuck it out and made some good putts. It was nice.’
The win demonstrates the wealth on offer on the LIV tour, with Smith earning more for his Chicago win than he did for winning the Players Championship in March — the sport’s richest purse at the time at $5.36 million .
The stage was set for a finals duel between two of the world’s best golfers as overnight leader Smith started the day two shots clear of partner Johnson (70), who fell three shots behind after a first-hole bogey.
Both players shagged the second hole, but Smith bogeyed the fourth and sixth as Johnson came within one shot before the duo carded birdies on the par-5 seventh.
Smith opened a three-shot lead with a birdie on the eighth par 4, where Johnson carded the first of two consecutive bogeys to reach the fourth turn and his hopes of becoming the first multiple winner in the LIV golf series , were all but wiped out .
Uihlein (69th) came on and was just a shot behind Smith, who cruised to a bogey on the par-3 16th on the back nine, but the Aussie reached 18th by three shots after a birdie on the penultimate hole paired with a late Uihlein bogey.
Smith is the highest-ranked player at LIV Golf to date, finishing fourth on his debut two weeks ago in Boston, where he missed a three-man playoff by one shot after a bogey on his penultimate hole.
Compatriots Matt Jones (72) finished with four unders, Jed Morgan (71) and Wade Ormsby (72) with four overs and Marc Leishman (78) with six overs to go home in last place.
While Johnson couldn’t catch Smith, he helped his 4 Aces teammates Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch and Pat Perez win the team competition as the team claimed a $3 million prize for the fourth straight season (5, $4 million) for first place.
The final lap was interrupted for a scheduled moment of silence, which was observed throughout the venue in honor of Queen Elizabeth, whose image was shown on screens around the course.