Cameron Smith, of Australia, holds the trophy after winning The Players Championship golf tournament, March 14, 2022, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (LYNNE SLADKY / AP)
Cameron Smith was overcome by emotion as he savored the biggest win of his career at the Players Championship on Monday, sharing his triumph with Australian family after being cut off from them for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 28-year-old's mother Sharon and sister Mel were green-side spectators at TPC Sawgrass as Smith claimed a one-stroke win over India's Anirban Lahiri after a weather-delayed final round.
With Australia's ban on non-essential travel having eased in late-2021, Smith's family made the 9,000-mile journey from Brisbane to Florida in late-February to reunite with the golfer.
Cameron Smith showed plenty of grit as he overcame three consecutive bogeys from the seventh hole that threatened to derail his final round
Smith's voice cracked when asked how he felt about sharing Monday's triumph with them.
"I haven't seen them in two years so it's really cool to have them here and my main priority was just to hang out with them," he said.
"Golf was second for these few weeks so it's nice to see them and nice to get a win for them.
"It’s nice to give mum a hug."
Cameron Smith, of Australia, hits from the fourth fairway during the final round of play in The Players Championship golf tournament, March 14, 2022, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (LYNNE SLADKY / AP)
Smith showed plenty of grit as he overcame three consecutive bogeys from the seventh hole that threatened to derail his final round.
He drained four successive birdies from the 10th and another on the island green of the 17th after attacking the hole with a gutsy tee-shot that landed only feet from the lake.
He found water with his second shot on the 18th but recovered to land his fourth three feet from the pin for a bogey that staved off a playoff and secured his fifth US Tour title.
He said his never-give-up mentality may have come from watching rugby league and his home state of Queensland eke out wins against New South Wales in Australia's annual State of Origin series.
"Even when it got gritty they'd somehow manage to win," he said.
"I think that's kind of instilled in all of us."
Smith, who won the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January, will head to the Masters in three weeks with form and plenty of confidence.
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