Aussie golf star Cameron Smith has won the LIV Golf Chicago Invitational in a three-stroke win to take home a monster $US4 million ($A6m) pay cheque.
Smith punched the air after draining his final putt to finish -13, three strokes ahead of Dustin Johnson and Peter Uihlein in a tie for second.
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Incredibly, Smith won the Player’s Championship in March, taking home a $US3.6m ($A5m) cheque, which was the biggest in PGA Tour history at the time — but has eclipsed it in just his second LIV Tour tournament.
Debuting in Boston a fortnight ago, the British Open Champion finished in a tie for fourth but missed a playoff by a single stroke — however he still pocketed a cool $1.5m.
He made no mistake in Chicago, shooting a 69 to close out the win.
He didn’t have it all his own way though, coughing up his lead on the front-nine with bogeys on the fourth and sixth, before responding on the seventh and eighth with birdies to regain the lead and romp to victory.
“I think I probably had to prove to myself and probably other people that I’m still a great player,” he said. “I’m still here to win golf tournaments and I”m proud of myself the way I hung in there today. I didn’t really have my best stuff the first eight or nine holes but stuck it tough and made a few good putts coming in — it was nice.”
The world number three finished with back-to-back birdies, the last from 20 feet, to defeat two-time major winner Johnson and Uihlein by three strokes.
Asked “How many Leishman Lagers can you fit in the trophy?’, Smith responded: “I’m going to find out, that’s for sure.
“I knew that putt on the last meant a lot for the team, it was nice to drain that one.”
Aussie golf broadcaster Luke Elvy posted: “Cam Smith has won USD$10.6m (AUD$15.8m) this year in victories alone. Maui, The PLAYERS, The Open, LIV Chicago. That doesn’t include any other events or his $100m sign on bonus. Banner year for Australia’s no.1.
“Cam Smith won USD$3.6m at The Players in March, the then richest purse in golf, he’s just won the LIV Golf event in Chicago & USD$4m. Neither of them are close to the significance of The Open. But for a boy from working class Australia, 2022 has been astonishingly lucrative year.”
Smith was long rumoured to be joining the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Tour but went on to win the British Open before revealing he was defecting for a reported $A140m sign on bonus.
LIV Golf’s record prize money has helped lure several big-name PGA defections, prompting the PGA to issue indefinite bans on former members and spark an antitrust lawsuit in the United States set for trial in 2024.
Smith’s departure was a big blow for the US PGA Tour, where he’d won the Tournament of Champions in January, The Players Championship in March and his first major title in July at St. Andrews.
Smith added a $4 million LIV Golf top prize from a $25 million purse to a 2022 riches haul that includes $1.47 million for the Tournament of Champions win, $3.6 million at the Players and $2.5 million at the Open.
Smith took a three-stroke lead after Johnson opened with a bogey at the first. Smith missed a six-foot par putt to bogey the fourth and a poor blast out of a bunker at the sixth led to another bogey.
Both birdied the par-5 seventh but Smith rolled in a five-foot birdie putt at the eighth and after Johnson made back-to-back bogeys at eight and nine it was Uihlein who trailed Smith by three at the turn.
Smith chipped within inches of the hole and tapped in for birdie at the par-5 11th.
He took a bogey at the par-3 16th, lipping out on a short par putt, but denied his US rivals with his closing birdies.
“A little disappointed in the way I played,” Johnson said. “I hit a lot of good putts. Just nothing would go in the hole.”