Cam Smith dominates LIV Golf Bedminster for 2nd win in last 3 events

Captain Cameron Smith of Ripper GC putts on the 18th green during the final round of LIV Golf Bedminster at the Trump National Golf Club on Sunday, August 13, 2023 in Bedminster, New Jersey where he won by record-setting 7 strokes over Anirban Lahiri who finished at 5-under. (Photo by LIV Golf)

BEDMINSTER, New Jersey – After building a four-stroke lead through the first two rounds of the LIV Golf Bedminster event at Trump National Golf Club, Cam Smith warned things could go south if his driver got “whirly,” and that’s exactly what happened when he hit wayward drives on Nos. 1 and 3 and bogeyed both. When 53-year-old veteran Phil Mickelson birdied the par-3 4th hole, Smith’s lead was down to two and it was game on.

Smith won recently at the LIV London event but was dissatisfied with his play and worried history might be repeating itself. “Those first three holes are really tough holes,” Smith said. “It’s easy to bogey. They’re not snacks. But I played good golf for two days in a row, and there was no reason to play 5- or 6-over and give the tournament back.”

Teammates Matt Jones, Jediah Morgan and Marc Leishman of Ripper GC spray Captain Cameron Smith of Ripper GC and caddie Sam Pinfold with champagne in honor of their win on the 18th green during the final round of LIV Golf Bedminster at the Trump National Golf Club on Sunday, August 13, 2023 in Bedminster, New Jersey. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/LIV Golf)

What followed next was a mind-blowing turn of events. Smith birdied the par-4 6th hole to ratchet up the pressure, and Mickelson chose to go for broke on the 185-yard par-3 7th hole despite a dicey pin position on the front right of the green barely over the pond in front. Mickelson’s first tee shot was at the pin but landed in the water. His second tee shot did the same, splashing down a foot short of land. Mickelson’s third tee shot, which was his fifth stroke after two penalty shots, hit the front of the green, backed off and stopped in deep rough on the bank. He chipped short and two-putted for a quintuple-bogey eight.

It was game over for Mickelson, and after Smith scored three straight birdies at Nos. 8, 9 and 10, he had a 7-stroke lead that he would maintain to the end. Smith’s final-round 3-under 68 gave him a 54-hole total of 12-under 201. His 7-stroke win was a LIV Golf record margin, and he won a $4 million first prize and took over the LIV season points lead. Smith’s Ripper GC won another $3 million split four ways with an 11-stroke victory, so Smith’s total winnings amounted to $4.75 million.

India’s Anirban Lahiri was solo second at 5-under 208 worth $2.25 million, and Abraham Ancer, Patrick Reed and Dean Burmester tied for third at 4-under 209 to win $1.1 million each. Mickelson’s final-round 75 dropped him to a ninth-place tie with Charles Howell III at 1-under 212 for $437,500.

Crowd favorite Phil Mickelson, Captain of HyFlyers GC, got within 2 strokes of Cam Smith after 6 holes but had a disastrous 8 on the par 3 seventh hole to eliminate any chance of winning. (Photo by Charles Laberge/LIV Golf)

Asked if his personal Waterloo at No. 7 was the result of a gambling mentality because he has gone two years without a win, Mickelson shrugged and said, “I had been hitting really good irons. I didn’t even think of the water, but I pulled both of them. That was a gut punch.

“I had a chance. I’m starting to play better. I’m having fun again, and the game is getting easier. I’m seeing a lot of progress.”

Mickelson’s eight at No. 7 was enough to drop control of the tournament back into Smith’s lap, and he didn’t disappoint with his torrid finish. After making a tough birdie at No. 6 to regain a measure of control with a three-stroke lead, Smith played a safe shot at No. 7 that hit the middle of the green and rolled into a collection are from where he made par. But he didn’t question Mickelson’s decision to go for the pin.

Patrick Reed of 4Aces GC hits his shot from a bunker on the 15th hole, had another good tournament finishing T-3 with Abraham Ancer and Dean Burmester. (Photo by Charles Laberge/LIV Golf)

“When you’re a few behind and you want to make something happen, you kind of feel like you need to do it,” Smith said. “And this golf course, the way it is, you need to be careful of what you’re trying to do.

“I can understand how that happened 100 percent. Phil is a competitor. He’s one of the best golfers of all-time. He hasn’t been in the winner’s circle for a couple of years, so I understand that want from him to make a statement. I think it would have been a different story if that hole had been a little bit different.”

When his lead reached seven after making four birdies in five holes through No. 10, it seemed as though Smith put it in cruise control. But he said, “There’s no cruise control around here. Every hole is hard…It wasn’t easy.”

The next LIV Golf League event is scheduled September 22 – 24 at Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago.

Well, Smith made it look easy by the way he dominated the LIV Bedminster field. When it was over, it was fair to ask if Smith currently might be the best golfer in the world.

“Maybe,” Smith said with a smile. “It’s hard to say that. Yeah, I think I’d be up there.”

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