Cameron Smith of Australia won his first PGA Tour title on his own Sunday when he least expected it.
Two shots behind with two holes to play, Smith made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff against a faltering Brendan Steele, and won the Sony Open with a two-putt par from 10 feet on the first extra hole.
Steele had a three-shot lead when he holed a bunker shot for birdie on the 11th hole and he never trailed the entire day until it fell apart at the end. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the 17th, and then hit a wild hook from the fairway on the par-5 18th and never had a reasonable look at birdie.
On the 10th hole for the playoff, Steele was in ideal position in the fairway, 88 yards from the hole, when he hit wedge over the green. He chipped off the rain-soaked grass and mud to 15 feet and missed the par putt. Smith, who had driven into right rough, chased his shot to 10 feet.
It was only easy at the end for Smith, a two-time Australian PGA champion who shared the team title with Jonas Blixt in the Zurich Classic three years ago.
“Just had to hang in there. No one was playing good golf today, it seemed like,” Smith said after a 68. “Just hung in there, and what do you know?”
Steele was trying to win for the first time in just over two years. This was hard to take.
“Everything that could go wrong went wrong today,” Steele said. He closed with a 71.
A final round that was wet, gray and full came to life in the final hour, which is about how long it took to play the last two holes because the maintenance crew kept having to squeegee the 18th green. Steele brought possibilities into play when he missed the green to the left on the par-3 17th, pitched to 6 feet and missed his par putt, reducing his lead to a single shot.
Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson were in the group ahead, both one shot behind. From a fairway bunker, Palmer went with fairway metal and sent it soaring so far to the right that it bounced off the metal railing atop a monster video board, beyond the corporate tent and vanished, presumably in a backyard. He had to return to the bunker and made bogey.
Simpson’s wedge skipped off the soaked green and settled 15 feet behind the hole. He narrowly missed the birdie putt, shot 67 and finished alone in third.
Steele, who had to wait 15 minutes to tee off, had to wait another 15 minutes to hit his second shot from the fairway. He went just as far offline as Palmer, just the opposite direction. It bounced off the roof of the tents left of the green and stopped near the ropes lining the 10th fairway. Given free relief from the grandstands, he hit wedge from the muck to 30 feet and two-putt for par.
Smith holed his 8-footer for birdie for the second playoff in two weeks. They finished at 11-under 269.
EUROPEAN TOUR AND SUNSHINE TOUR
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Branden Grace ended a two-year drought by closing with a 9-under 62 to come from behind for a three-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen in the South African Open.
Grace, who had fallen out of the top 100 in the world for the first time in five years, had not won since the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City toward the end of 2017. The two South Africans staged a great battle at Randpark Golf Club. Oosthuizen made a hole-in-one on No. 8, only for Grace to answer with four straight birdies early on the back nine.
Oosthuizen closed with a 68.
Grace won for the ninth time on the European Tour. He also clinched a spot in the British Open this summer. Marcus Armitage, who finished third after a 69, and Jaco Ahlers, who tied for fourth, earned the other two spots.
HONG KONG (AP) — Wade Ormsby of Australia closed with a 4-under 66 to finish off a four-shot victory Sunday in the Hong Kong Open, a tournament delayed six weeks because of pro-democracy protests.
British Open champion Shane Lowry had a 64, the low score of the final round, for a runner-up finish. Tony Finau made his 2020 debut by finishing in fifth, seven shots behind. Finau shot 67 with a double bogey on the last hole.
Ormsby won for the third time on the Asian Tour.