Stunned Davis secures title
CAMERON Davis came to the Australian Open hoping to just make the cut.
Four days later he walked away with the trophy.
In only his 18th start as a professional golfer, a stunned Davis lifted the Stonehaven Cup following a helter-skelter final round at the Australian golf course.
It was not only Davis' first victory as a pro, it was his first top ten finish.
But the $225,000 prize cheque was well deserved for the 22-year-old Sydneysider after he held his nerve as huge stars like Jason Day fell away under the pressure.
Starting the day six shots off Day's lead and, critically, six groups ahead, Davis carded a superb 64.
After being one of four players to taste the lead in the last nine holes, Davis nailed a birdy on the 18th to finish as clubhouse leader.
Final round pair Day and Lucas Herbert had earlier looked unassailable at the top but Day dropped four shots in five holes to drift away mid-round, and Herbert also dropped four after the turn as the pressure ratcheted up.
Matt Jones and Jonas Blixt - who finished tied for second - both had a late run but fell short. Swede Blixt had a 10 foot birdie putt on the last to force a playoff but missed it, leaving Davis gobsmacked on the practice range when told he'd won the Australian Open.
"I was just doing my own thing when someone came and told me it was all over. I didn't know what to say, it was a bit of a shock really," Davis said.
"I have seen everything on TV and seen guys win this tournament, you never think you're going to be there.
"You want to be there but you have no idea what the road is going to be like to get there. It's always been a dream to win a big tournament but I had no idea how it was going to come about. For this to be it, I am just so happy."
Davis could barely believe he'd won the tournament and his eyes almost rolled back in his head when reminded about the size of his first prize cheque in the post-match press conference.
The fact he earned a start at the British Open as well was also a bit too much to comprehend on a dream-like afternoon.
Davis, who plays at Monash and Roseville golf clubs, missed the cut by plenty last week at the NSW Open and was just aiming to avoid that fate at the Australian Open. He'd never made the cut before in three attempts.
"I've always struggled. I kept on missing the cut by one," he said.
"That was really the thing that I was trying to get off my back this week. I was just trying to get over the cut line."
Davis won the Australian amateur title at the same golf course in 2015 but his chance to take that form into the Australian Open was cruelled by a broken wrist suffered by hitting a tree root while playing in the Mona Vale medal. It put him out of the game for many months but the lanky right-hander - who can hit equally as well with his left - fought back.
Davis said his advantage was playing well ahead of the final groups, and not feeling the pressure that told on most of them.
"I didn't look at the leaderboard all day and that was probably good for me. I just kept on going and playing my game and pushing and pushing and seeing how far I could get," he said.
Day's tournament came to a crashing end when he hit a ball into the water at the ninth, and dropped three behind Herbert.
When Herbert's impressive calm suffered under the tension in the last nine, the rest of the pack surged.
"When you hold the lead and when everyone is expecting you to win, there's a bit of added pressure on top of that as well, so yeah, just a few bounces here and there, I mean, obviously the double on 9 wasn't the greatest," Day said.
"I was on the wrong side of momentum and if I could just get on the right side of momentum it may have been a different outcome today. Unfortunately, I was just on the other side."
With Jordan Spieth finishing back in eighth, the promoter's dream of a Day or Spieth win didn't eventuate but Davis' win - and the gutsy tournament of Herbert - was the next best thing.
The crop of talented young Australian golfers coming through means the next generation of Days, Adam Scotts and Marc Leishman's are well and truly in the pipeline. Cam Smith, who finished with his second consecutive top four finish, is only 24, too.