photo PGA Tour

Australians Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman have parred the first extra hole of a playoff to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after their opponents, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, found the water from the tee and could do no better than double bogey.

For Smith it is his third PGA Tour title and for Leishman his 6th but for Smith it completes a unique double in this particular event having also won in 2017, albeit with another playing partner.

Smith and Leishman began the final round in the alternate shot format one shot behind Schwartzel and Oosthuizen although through nine holes they were tied at 21 under. The Australian pair birdied the 11th to move two ahead after the South Africans had bogeyed the 10th.

Bogeys at the 13th and 15th however had them trailing the South Africans but perhaps the key turning point came at the reachable par 4 16th after Smith had found the water with his tee shot.

After taking a penalty drop, Leishman hit the most delicate of pitches into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a share of the lead.

Both pairs bogeyed the par 3 17th after missing the green and then parred to last to force a playoff.

Smith’s previous win in the event was with Sweden’s Jonas Blixt and while no doubt the victory back then was special for him given it was his first PGA Tour title, to have won with his fellow countryman and close PGA Tour friend, today’s success will be equally important.

The win will take Smith’s earnings in his five-year career on the PGA Tour beyond US$15 million while for Leishman he moves past US$32 million with the US$1050,000 each of the winning team pocketed for their success.

Leishman was of course delighted with the win and heaped a lot of praise on his playing partner.

“It was an awesome week, obviously,” said Leishman. “Cam played unbelievably well. I was saying to him when we finished if that had been an individual tournament, I think he would have won by a fair few shots.

“But I managed to not hold him back too much. But, no, it was a fun week. I mean, the course was unbelievable. I haven’t been here for a few years and the greens were firm, fast, even after 11 inches of rain last week.

“But it was just all around a really good week, on and off the golf course. Obviously, New Orleans is a great city and we enjoyed our time here and looking forward to coming back next year I’m sure.”

When asked about the crucial chip in Leishman responded; “I said to the boys, I said, Why don’t we just chip this in. It wasn’t the hardest chip in the world, but under the conditions — well, I won’t say it was a must make, but it was certainly very helpful that it went in.

“I actually forgot to get my ball out of the hole I was so excited. I went over and was high-fiving Cam, and Louis had to throw the ball to me. So yeah, it’s just nice to be able to celebrate with friends.

“We’re maybe me, Matty, Pinner, our caddies, we just had a great week. I’m really excited for them also. And, yeah, that chip-in was a lot of fun. It was nice to have crowds back out there too. The atmosphere was really good.”

Smith too was pumped by the win and talked about the nice vibe all week. “I think that we obviously were playing pretty good golf coming into the week. Leish coming off a Top-5 at the Masters. I played really well last week in Hilton Head.

“I mean, the conditions definitely favored the Aussies, I think, this week. It was windy for three out of the four days. The greens were firm and fast, exactly how we like it. Reminds us so much of home.

“And just everything just kind of fell into place. Yeah, I mean, it was just, it was so cool. It was, like Leish said, the crowd felt like a home crowd. It felt like we were playing on a home course. So, yeah, it was a really cool week.”

Neither Smith nor Leishman are scheduled to play next week’s Valspar Championship in Tampa and it may be that their next event will be the Wells Fargo event in ten days’ time.

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