Australia’s Cameron Smith charged to victory at the PGA Tour’s weather-disrupted Players Championship on Monday, carding a closing six-under-par 66 to win by one shot ahead of India’s Anirban Lahiri.

Lahiri meanwhile, who had closed to within one of the lead after a birdie of his own on the 17th, then missed a chip in from 41 feet on the last to leave Smith alone at the top of the leaderboard and celebrating a $3.6 million payday.

It was, however, a memorable result for the Indian golfer who took a one shot lead into the final day of the Championship after completing the third round with a 5-under 67 on Monday morning. It was only the second time in his career that the Indian held the 54-hole lead as he sought to join countryman Arjun Atwal (2010 Wyndham Championship) as the only Indian to win on the PGA Tour. He was also bidding to become the third Asian to win THE PLAYERS after Korea’s K.J. Choi (2011) and Si Woo Kim (2017).

Smith, the 28-year-old Queenslander roared into contention on a congested final day at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with five birdies in his opening six holes.

It was Smith’s second victory of 2022 following victory at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January, and was made even sweeter by the presence of his mother Sharon and sister Mel to witness the victory.

Smith said he had not seen his family for more than two years until recently due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“It’s really cool to have them here,” Smith said, his voice cracking with emotion. “My main priority was just to hang out with them.

“Golf was second for these few weeks, so it’s nice to see them and nice to get a win for them.”

Smith’s final round 66 left him on 13 under 265, one ahead of India’s Anirban Lahiri, who shot a closing 69. England’s Paul Casey was third on 11 under while Kevin Kisner was fourth on 10 under.

Weather disruption that wiped out swathes of play on Thursday and Friday meant the final round was only completed early Monday, with Smith two adrift of Lahiri, the 54-hole leader on nine under.

Smith’s final round got off to a flying start, with a 38-foot birdie putt on the first to move to within one of the lead.

Another birdie on the second gave him a share of the lead, before he took sole possession of the top of the leaderboard with a third straight birdie on the third.

- Sensational start -

He went two clear with his fourth birdie on the fourth.

Another birdie putt from 10 feet on the sixth hole preserved his two-shot advantage before three straight bogeys on the seventh, eighth and ninth holes allowed England’s Paul Casey and Keegan Bradley to join him at the top of the leaderboard.

But Smith then responded with a sensational start to the back nine which mirrored the start of his round, making four straight birdies on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th to regain a two-shot lead.

There was a wobble on the par-five 16th when his tee-shot flew into the trees flanking the left hand edge of the fairway. But he recovered brilliantly to make par.

Then on the iconic par-three 17th, Smith bravely blasted a nine iron to four feet for a birdie which left him three shots clear heading to the 18th.

Yet there threatened to be a plot twist at the last, when another wayward tee shot left him in the rough amongst the trees.

An attempt to chip safely onto the fairway ended in disaster when the Australian’s ball rolled into the water forcing him to drop.

But once again Smith’s iron play came to the rescue. He stroked a fourth shot to four feet, leaving him with a straightforward bogey putt to limit the damage.

Lahiri, whose previous best finish on tour was a T2 at the 2017 Memorial Tournament, had led into the final round at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in 2016 before finishing tied third. It is a welcome change in form and has put Lahiri in a good place despite struggling all season without a single top-10.

“I love golf, and when you know you can play well and you don’t, you’re not happy,” Lahiri had told as per PTI’s report after round three.

“Then when you start playing well again and you start hitting it the way you want to hit it again, you are happy. I mean, it’s pretty simple. I’m just in that place right now where I’m just hitting it nice, I’m seeing it nice, I’m feeling it nice, and that just makes me happy.

“My irons were pretty much the same as when I came here seven years ago. That’s basically what we thought and talked about and said, let’s experiment. It can’t be worse than what it is. I’ve been hitting it so bad to be honest. I was like, you know what, let’s just throw some lead tape on and see what happens because I’ve felt like I’m swinging good, and yeah, it made a huge difference.”

Sores after the final round of the PGA Tour’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on Monday (Par 72; USA unless stated):

275 - Cameron Smith (AUS) 69-71-69-66

276 - Anirban Lahiri (IND) 67-73-67-69

277 - Paul Casey (ENG) 70-69-69-69

278 - Kevin Kisner 68-74-68-68

279 - Keegan Bradley 72-71-68-68

280 - Harold Varner III 69-69-72-70, Russell Knox (SCO) 71-71-68-70, Doug Ghim 70-70-68-72

281 - Sepp Straka (AUT) 69-74-71-67, Adam Hadwin (CAN) 72-72-70-67, Viktor Hovland (NOR) 71-73-68-69, Dustin Johnson 69-73-76-63

282 - Russell Henley 69-73-72-68, Keith Mitchell 67-72-74-69, Taylor Pendrith (CAN) 68-71-74-69, Erik van Rooyen (RSA) 71-67-74-70, Daniel Berger 67-75-70-70, Max Homa 72-73-71-66, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 70-73-69-70, Brendan Steele 73-69-69-71, Shane Lowry (IRL) 73-70-67-72

With AFP and PTI inputs