Smith-Blixt team wins PGA Zurich Classic on 4th playoff hole

AVONDALE, La. — Cameron Smith stood on the edge of the 18th green, wiping away tears eyes at a ceremony complete with alligator skin championship belts and a silver chalice.

The 23-year-old Australian, the youngest and least accomplished player left on the course, had been painstakingly close to his first PGA Tour victory — from the final hole of regulation at the Zurich Classic on Sunday night through the fourth playoff hole Monday.

He kept his emotions in check long enough to stick a 58-yard lob wedge within 3 1/2 feet of the pin on the fourth playoff hole — the par-5 18th — and sink his birdie putt.

The sequence lifted him and teammate Jonas Blixt of Sweden to the first championship under the Zurich Classic’s new team format. And it finally vanquished the feisty team of South Carolina residents Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown.

Kisner and Brown had rallied with a final round of 12-under 60 on Sunday, capped by a nearly 95-foot chip-in for eagle by Kisner as darkness fell Sunday night at TPC Louisiana.

“It was pretty cool to knock the putt in for the win,” said Smith, who along with Blixt had missed potential winning putts from 9 to 10 feet on earlier playoff holes. “I guess it would have felt a little bit different if Jonas had done it for my first win.

“To have a putt to win on the PGA Tour when you’ve been working toward it your whole life is a completely different feeling,” Smith added. “It felt like the longest (3 1/2-foot) putt I’ve ever hit.”

The Zurich Classic was the first team event on the PGA Tour since the Walt Disney World National Team Championship in 1981.

The tournament began with 80 teams and players choosing teammates. Many said they chose friends on the Tour rather than research whose game best complemented their own. The new format attracted half of the top 30-ranked players.

For most of the week, players raved about the relaxing conditions. They and their caddies could talk strategy, and players took comfort in knowing their teammates could pick them up. That was especially the case on the best-ball second and final rounds as well as the playoff — players played their own balls and teams took the better score per hole. In the first and third rounds, teammates alternated shots.

“You support each other and it feels good to have someone to lean on,” Blixt said, nodding at Smith. “Having a great teammate like him, it’s a walk in the park.”

But, in the end, lining up a winning putt — with $1.02 million and 400 FedExCup points on the line for each winning player — wasn’t much easier.

“I thought after winning twice (on the PGA Tour), it would be a little less nerve-racking trying to finish it off, but it still got me a little bit,” the 33-year-old Blixt said. “Doing it for the third time, I mean, this is the most fun one, I must say.”

The Canadian team of David Hearn and Graham DeLaet were 22nd at 16 under, finishing with a solid final round of 9 under on Sunday.

Victory in the new format also meant invitations to The Players Championship and SBS Tournament of Champions. It did not, however, provide a Masters invitation or count toward world rankings.

Blixt and Smith never bogeyed any of the 76 holes on the par-72 course carved from cypress swamp west of New Orleans. They led by a stroke after two rounds and by four after three. They had fallen behind by two strokes, with Kisner and Brown birdieing 10 of their first 11 holes Sunday. But they rallied with birdies on Nos. 12, 15 and 16 to regain a one-stroke lead heading into the final hole of regulation, which they wound up having to birdie to force the playoff after Kisner’s clutch chip.

Both teams finished four rounds at 27 under par.

Kisner and Brown took home nearly $412,000 each. They also had the lowest one-round score in team play with their 60, two strokes better than the current course record in traditional stroke play.

Kisner missed a 9 1/2-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole — also 18 — that could have won it.

“We were close, had a chance there and I just didn’t get it done,” he said. “But we’ll be back next year.”

Just Posted

Accused murderer tells all to Mr. Big undercover officer

Joshua Frank tells undercover police officer he shot the Klaus family

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre prepares to open

Non-profit will run the facility and agencies will provide staff

A slow economic recovery isn’t yet loosening Central Alberta’s tight job market

Job-seekers at Red Deer fair say there are still few openings

Rocky Mountain House man arrested for child luring

A 30-year-old Rocky Mountain House man was arrested after allegedly having explicit… Continue reading

Parkinson association will close offices but maintain services

Offices closing in Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge

WATCH: Central Middle School students’ Christmas tree

A group of Central Middle School students are set to show off… Continue reading

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

100+ Women Red Deer donate to Christmas Bureau

About $14,000 will help with Christmas hampers and toys

Semi collides with vehicle on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

Members of the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit dealt with a call on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

After 70 years, Red Deer veteran still remembers his traumatic war experience

Frank Krepps feels lucky to have survived the Second World War

Merritt Mountie charged with assault

Charges are in relation to an incident in May at the detachment, B.C. Prosecution Service said

Blackfalds RCMP arrest “armed and dangerous” man

A 38-year-old man, who police identified as armed and dangerous, was arrested… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month