RBC Heritage

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Smith, Blixt break through to win Zurich Classic of New Orleans


Marianna Massey

After a birdie barrage from the field of 80 teams at the PGA Tour’s first event of its kind since 1981 this week, the Monday sudden-death finish at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans took a few holes to finally see a red number again.

When a birdie was finally made on the fourth playoff hole, the par-5 18th at TPC Louisiana, it was 23-year-old Australian Cameron Smith reaching down to pick it out of the cup, securing he and partner Jonas Blixt the victory in the unique two-man team event.

It's Smith's first win on the PGA Tour, and it keeps him on pace for what's already been a career year. The young gun has made 12 of 15 cuts, with two top-10s and three top-25s. His best finish in 2017 prior to this week was his most recent one at the Valero Texas Open, where he tied for sixth.

For Blixt, the win is his third on tour, and first since the 2013 Greenbrier. It has been a quiet year so far for the Swede, featuring seven missed cuts in 14 events. His best finish came in a T-20 showing at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. The win in New Orleans is a breakthrough week for both players, and it gets them into the Players Championship, the PGA Championship, Tournament of Champions, and back in the field at the Zurich Classic for the next two years.

Unfortunately, after providing the shot of the weekend—and maybe the year—Kevin Kisner found himself in an all-to-familiar situation. The sudden-death playoff loss gives him an 0-4 record in playoffs on tour, and it marks his second runner-up finish in 2017, his sixth in the last three seasons alone. His partner and fellow Aiken, S.C., native Scott Brown also grabbed his second runner-up finish of 2017, the first coming at Riviera in the Genesis Open.

Monday's sudden-death playoff began on the par-5 18th hole, where the entire foursome had a look at birdie. Smith was the closest of the bunch, but all four players missed. Taking a page out of yesterday's LPGA playoff in Texas, they all parred the 18th again. On to the par-3 ninth they went, where four pars came again. Finally, it was back to 18, where Smith hit the shot of the day when his approach from 59 yards left him a two-footer for par. Kisner, Brown, and Blixt all missed their birdie putts, and the stage was set for Smith, who finished up with no problem.