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LEADERBOARD –20 Smith; -19 Young; -18 McIlroy; -14 Fleetwood, Hovland SELECTED OTHERS –12 Johnson, Spieth; -11 Hatton; -9 Fitzpatrick; -7 MacIntyre

Cam Smith’s stunning back nine broke Rory McIlroy’s heart and delivered his maiden major title at the 150th Open.

The Australian rolled in five birdies in a row to overhaul a four-shot overnight deficit and lift the Claret Jug at the Old Course.

Billed ahead of the day’s play as a straight shootout between McIlroy and co-leader Viktor Hovland, it started off that way. McIlroy drew blood early to take the outright lead.

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But the vast galleries willing the Northern Irishman to success had contended without the world No.6. While ice coursed through Smith’s veins, his putter was red hot.

His inward half of 30 will go down in the records as one of the great stretches in the storied history of golf’s original major. From the tenth to the 14th, he simply could not miss.

To do that at any time is a feat. To do it here, on this stage, was truly remarkable.

Also remarkable was the par save at 17. Dragging his second left, Smith had the Road Hole bunker in his way. Nevertheless, he grabbed his putter, rolled it round the edge of the trap to ten feet and then drained the effort for his four. He followed that up with a birdie at the last to all but secure the Claret Jug’s return Down Under after 28 years.

“I didn’t know I was going to get this far,” he said after receiving the most famous trophy in golf.

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“It’s just awesome. To look at all the names on this trophy and have mine there is unreal.”

McIlroy, meanwhile, was unable to find the same spark which delivered such outstanding results on Friday and Saturday. Putts which previously would have dropped now stayed above ground, while bounces and breaks went against him.

Cam Young leapfrogged him into second with an eagle at the last. The PGA Tour rookie went under the radar for much of Sunday but put together a very solid round to cap a fine week.

McIlroy, despite his obvious disappointment, was magnanimous in defeat.

“It’s not life or death. I’ll have other chances to win the Open Championship and other chances to win majors,” he said. 

“It’s one that I feel like I let slip away, but there will be other opportunities.

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“I got beaten by a better player this week. 20-under par for four rounds of golf around here is really, really impressive playing, especially to go out and shoot 64 today to get it done. 

“I can’t be too despondent because of how this year’s went and this year’s going. I’m playing some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. So it’s just a matter of keep knocking on the door, and eventually one will open.”

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