The Aussie duo of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith captured the spirit of Anzac Day to triumph in the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.
The duo bravely fought their way into a play-off to defeat the South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel on the TPC Louisiana course on a day – April 25th – that this year marks the 106th anniversary when members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed on the ill-fated shores of Gallipoli in Turkey.
Since then the 25th April has become a national day of remembrance commemorating all Australians and New Zealanders who served in conflicts and peacekeeping operations. And the significance of the day was not lost on Smith and Leishman.
“I was actually speaking to my old man last night and he said it’s a really good omen for us guys being up the top of the leaderboard on Anzac Day,” said Smith. “I know my family went out to a dawn service yesterday morning and paid their respects, so maybe we have got a bit of good karma out there today because of that.”
“We have both got family back in Australia too. Probably the hardest thing about it has been last year, not being able to see family,” said Leishman. “I haven’t seen my family for over a year. I think Cam’s the same.”
It was the second holiday victory for Leishman, who defeated Spain’s Jon Rahm to win the Farmers Insurance Open on Australia Day -26th January – a year ago at Torrey Pines.
“I need more Australian holidays,” said the 37-year-old, six-time PGA Tour winner. “It’s nice.”
The win by the Australian duo stopped what could have been a South African triumph with Brandon Stone winning on the Challenge Tour and Garrick Higgo strolling to victory on the European Tour. Both the Australian and South African teams finished the foursomes final round with 20-under par 268 totals.
When they returned to the par-five 18th to play the first hole of sudden death in alternate-shot format, Oosthuizen put his tee shot into the water guarding the right side of the hole, opening the door for Leishman and Smith.
Smith and Leishman began the day a stroke behind Oosthuizen and Schwartzel but pulled level after three birdies on the front nine. After the South Africans bogeyed the 10th, Leishman and Smith gained a two-shot lead with a birdie at the 11th, only to surrender it with bogeys at Nos. 13 and 15 – where their opponents’ birdie was just the fourth of the day at the tough par-four. An unlikely birdie at No. 16 – where Smith was in the water off the tee but Leishman holed a 23-foot chip – saw the Australians pull level again.
They stayed that way as both teams – playing together in the final group – bogeyed the 17th and parred the 18th.
“It’s been a pretty cool week,” said Smith, who notched his third PGA Tour title and his second Zurich Classic crown. He paired up with Sweden’s Jonas Blixt to win the tour’s only team event in 2017.
“That back nine was brutal,” Smith said. “But we hung in there and we won.”
The Aussie teammates had fun with the format all week, Leishman paying tribute to Smith’s increasingly famous mullet hairstyle by donning a mullet wig prior to Saturday’s four-ball third round.
The demands of the final-round alternate-shot format left little time for frivolity, but both Smith and Leishman said teaming up with a friend for a victory was special: “We had such a good week on and off the golf course,” Smith said. “Something I’ll never forget for sure.”
And what about Smith’s ‘mullet’ style haircut given he indicated to his girlfriend he would consider getting it cut if he and Leishman won: “I would have to apologise to my girlfriend, it’s not going away. I mean, it’s — I feel like it’s part of me now,” said Smith laughing.
Leishman interrupted saying: “He’s got a cult following now. You should hear the fans out there. They’re all over it. It’s awesome.
And with Smith having the last say: “Yeah, it’s really cool. It gives the fans something to get behind. Lots of people love it and it’s good fun as well. It makes people laugh. I love it.”