By Mark Hayes, Golf Australia
IT HAD already been a great week when Cameron Smith stood over a three-wood on the 18th fairway.
But when the 21-year-old major championship debutant put the 265m shot to within 20cm for a kick-in eagle, it launched his career into a stratosphere he couldn’t quite grasp.
The Golf Australia rookie pro laid the foundation for his next 18 months with his eagle the icing on a round of 68 that propelled him to three under overall and a tie for fourth alongside Adam Scott.
Did we mention it was his first major?
The result won him $US407,037 and effectively secured his US PGA Tour card for next season, along with a start at next week’s Travelers Championship.
It gives him a return entry to next year’s US Open and the Masters and catapults him into the world’s top 100.
And should he accept, which will be a matter of time, a special temporary membership that’s now on offer based on his FedEx Cup points total, he’ll be able to accept unlimited sponsor invites into the remaining events this American season.
In short, he’s skipped about normal 1000 steps with four days of almighty heroics.
And it was too much for the mild-mannered Brisbane lad to take in.
“I’m speechless. I just want to sort of sit in the hotel room and let it all absorb,” he said with trademark cheeky grin.
“That sounds pretty good, though, doesn’t it? I honestly haven’t thought about it. It’s pretty crazy actually.”
What he could explain was the feeling after his withering finish with 6000 people in the 18th grandstand roaring in unison.
“It was spine tingling, it was crazy,” he beamed.
“Never, ever been — nothing near that. It’s awesome.
“I said to my caddie, Dan, on the tee, `Do we have a shot at getting there (in two shots)?’. He said, `If you hit a good drive’, so I hit a really good drive, ended up just short of the bunker there on the uphill slope, which helped a lot (with my second shot).
“It was just a perfect 3- wood. And I hit it … and it went a lot closer than I thought it was going to go.
“I wasn’t really expecting it (to go that close) to be honest. I just wanted to get it somewhere on the green and hopefully I would have putted it.
“But to finish up and have a tap-in for eagle is a nice way to end,” he said in one of the year’s great understatements.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in, and I don’t know what to say. Sorry.”
Smith said his form hadn’t been great in his US starts, but that he’d had a good feeling before coming to Chambers Bay and in practice rounds.
“I thought I could definitely compete and if I could get my way around the golf course pretty good, I’d sort of thought I had a shot.
“But it wasn’t to be, really. But I’m happy with where I finished, for sure.”
And as it slowly began to sink in, Smith began to reflect on what might have been had his normally laser accurate putting been on song during the final round.
“I probably hit it the best today of the whole week.
“I gave myself plenty of opportunities, but my distance control with the flat stick today was definitely not as good as it has been.
“I had three three-putts today, so it might have cost me a `W’. But what can you do? It’s golf.
Smith said his win gave his confidence an extreme boost.
“To be up there in a major means that you can play with the big guys,” he said.
“So I just (need to) keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully it all works out.
“I have had plenty of opportunities this year on the PGA Tour and didn’t really do too much and I really thought I wasn’t playing my best.
“But to come out here and show everyone what I’ve got is a very cool thing.”
Very cool indeed. And in his first major!