In 13 months as a professional, Cameron Davis had hardly set the world on fire. In fact, he was yet to register a top-10 result. That all changed at The Australian Golf Club on Sunday afternoon when he fulfilled a boyhood dream and captured the Emirates Australian Open.
In only his second Australian Open appearance as a pro, the 22-year-old from Frenchs Forest in Sydney’s north fired a blistering closing round of seven-under 64 to finish 11-under par and a stroke clear of former champion Matt Jones and Sweden’s Jones Blixt.
Cameron Smith was a further stroke back, while third-round leader Jason Day collapsed with a 73 to finish three strokes off the pace in fifth.
New Zealand’s Mark Brown shot an impressive 68 to be four strokes behind Davis in a tie for sixth. That was one stroke better than pre-tournament favourite Jordan Spieth, who closed with a 67 for eighth place.
Many fans expected the man with the Nike swoosh to prevail. However it wasn’t Day but the world No.1494 in the Nike kit that set the clubhouse lead and then waited as the final groups stumbled over the closing holes.
About 45 minutes later, Jones missed a lengthy eagle putt on the 18th to tie. Moments later Blixt missed a 14-footer for birdie that would have forced a playoff. The trophy belonged to Davis when Day failed to hole his second from the 18th fairway.
The consolation for Jones and Blixt comes with the knowledge they earned entry into next year’s British Open along with Davis as the three highest-placed finishers who were not yet exempt.
“This is a dream come true,” said Davis from the practice range where he was preparing for a playoff. His brilliant round of 64 included six birdies and a spectacular eagle 2 on the 380-metre 12th hole where he holed out from the fairway.
Victory still hadn’t sunk in when he entered the media centre following the biggest upset since Aaron Baddeley won the Australian Open as an amateur in 1999.
“It’s a little bit numb at the moment, I think. I just didn’t expect to be in this situation, even though I had a great round, I just didn’t think I was going to be far enough up the leaderboard. But to finish my round and see where everyone was at, I was kind of surprised. I’m just relieved right now; that’s about all I can say.”
Davis’ performance won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Golf Australia high-performance squad. He won the 2015 Australian Amateur Championship at The Australian. Last year he steered Australia to victory in the biennial World Amateur Team Championship by a whopping 19 strokes in Mexico. Davis was the only player to shoot four rounds in the 60s, posting the individual low score for the week of 17-under par.
As the hottest amateur on the planet, Davis turned professional immediately (October 2016) and received an invitation to return to the same venue to compete in the US PGA Tour’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba. He finished T-15 and collected $US98,466.
Amazingly, Davis’ management company wasn’t able to secure further starts on the PGA Tour or at professional events on any of the other major tours. And it appears as though that stopped his momentum.
Davis missed the cut by two strokes at last year’s Australian Open at Royal Sydney. In 2017, he battled away on Canada’s Mackenzie Tour without success. He earned just $US7,253 there from 11 events for 76th place on the money list.
However, he did show a glimpse of form recently when he fired a seven-under final round to finish second in the second stage of qualifying for the Web.com Tour. In a fortnight, he returns to America with a different mindset for a shot at a playing card in America.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence. Now that I know I can go and play my best golf in a situation like this, it’s a massive boost for the future.”