By Chris Vogt
More sun, more wind, more great crowds. But this was never going to be just another day. Plenty of pressure for the young players in search of big things; experienced heads hoping to summon their best when it matters. Plus the small matter of a national title and places at Carnoustie in 2018.
Jordan Spieth has the morning crowd with him, and opens with a regulation par (of course the birdie putt just missed). But he rolls one in at two. It brings a little noise from the gallery at this pretty part of the course. There is another birdie to come, and solid pars as he reaches the turn.
Early into the back nine Spieth’s mini-charge has stalled. The subdued crowd lopes along as the star bogies, then saves a couple. The ball striking is still crisp, still precise, but the crosswinds deny him any short putts, and the long ones just won’t fall.
A group of young men in matching shirts are following their idol. The shirts read: ‘…the right amount of rowdy. J.Spieth 2016’. They dish out vocal encouragement at regular intervals. Jordan responds with smiles, waves and a subtle fist pump. Another man has brought his young daughter to follow Spieth. They haven’t missed a shot. She’s a tennis player, but likes Jordan, too.
“It’s not just his golf,” says her father. “It’s the way he conducts himself. He’s someone the kids can look up to.”
Another drilled approach taken offline by the wind. Another deft chip. Another par. At the last, he drives down the middle. The crowd remain respectful, appreciative and happy to be afforded the opportunity to stride the course with this most impressive of young men.
Deliberations between player and caddie as an A380 peels off and climbs away from the airport. It’s headed into a healthy breeze which presents as a crosswind for players on 18. With a fairway wood Spieth delivers the finest shot of his disappointing week, the six-foot eagle a reminder of what might have been.
“I learned a lot this week,” he admits outside the scorer’s hut. “I wish we we’re playing a fifth round. It could have been a special week, but I take plenty of momentum from it into Hawaii.”
The leaders are early into the back nine. Jason Day has somehow managed to slip well back. A possible yardage disagreement between player and caddie has him disgruntled and seemingly in freefall. Around him, the young brigade are maturing before him.
Cameron Smith, Cameron Davis and Lucas Herbert are holding or improving their positions. Davis is on a flyer, his round headed for the low sixties. Swedish visitor Jonas Blixt has also worked his way up the board after a purple patch from the 10th. Then Day eagles 14 to remain a factor.
But Davis is holding firm and stares down a 6-foot birdie putt that would put him in the clubhouse as leader. In it goes, and the smile is childlike in its enjoyment of the moment.
Local member Matt Jones has hung around and at 18 he knocks it on to set up an eagle try. Blixt, playing with Jones, shoots from the woodchips. But his putt is weak. Day, Jones and the rest fall short, leaving Davis to claim his first Stonehaven Cup from the solitude of the practice fairway.
Press conferences are not the ideal place for a player to digest his biggest moment. Cameron Davis looks numb, drained, and impossibly happy. He would also probably like to be elsewhere.
“I didn’t expect to win this week, even if I played well,” Davis admitted, beaming into the space. “I made an effort not to look at leaderboards or think beyond the next shot.” Difficult to do in the heat of battle; who knows where his mind was. He’s not sure where it is now. But he is the champion, and on his way.
Blixt and Jones will join him at next year’s Open Championship in Scotland.
-11 Cameron Davis (NSW)
-10 Matt Jones (NSW), Jonas Blixt (SWE)
-9 Cameron Smith (QLD)
-8 Jason Day (QLD)
-7 Mark Brown (NZ), Lucas Herbert (VIC)
-6 Jordan Spieth (USA)
CAMERON DAVIS WINNING MEDIA CONFERENCE VIDEO