Cameron Smith refuses to rule out LIV switch while Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson may follow

Cameron Smith - ROBERT PERRY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Cameron Smith - ROBERT PERRY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Cameron Smith became the first Australian since Greg Norman to win The Open, and then refused to rule out a defection to his compatriot's Saudi-backed LIV series.

Telegraph Sport understands Norman is pursuing the prospect of an entirely Australian team that would include both Smith and Adam Scott.

Henrik Stenson, meanwhile, would be stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy if, as reports suggest, he is also joining the rebels now the 150th Championship at St Andrews is over.

Telegraph Sport understands that, as yet, the DP World Tour has not been informed of any change in Stenson's status and no decision has been made.

Smith had staged one of the finest back nines in Old Course history to dash home crowd hopes and extend Rory McIlroy's wait for another major to nine years.

The Australian's 268 across the four days to go 20-under equals the lowest total in relation to par in majors history. It was also the lowest ever at St Andrews, beating Tiger Woods' 269 in 2000 to finish 19 under. "This one's for Oz," the 28-year-old said afterwards.

LIV supremo Norman had been the last Australian to lift the Claret Jug in 1993 and Smith did nothing on Sunday night to kill rumours he could join the rebels.

He initially said it was "not good" to be asked about the breakaway, which has been an unwelcome sideshow this past week. "I don't know, mate," he eventually replied. "My team around me worries about all that stuff. I'm here to win golf tournaments."

Smith's stunning 64 came as McIlroy sacrificed a two-shot lead midway through the final round, ending on a 70 hampered by an average putting performance. "The putter went cold on me," McIlroy said.

The Australian, who had fallen four off the pace with a third-round 73, fired eight birdies – including five in a row from the 10th. American Cameron Young also made a brilliant eagle on the 18th in his closing 65 to force Smith to hole from two feet for his final birdie, leaving McIlroy needing his own eagle to force a four-hole play-off.

However, the 33-year-old was unable to produce a moment of magic and had to settle for a par that meant Smith could celebrate an extraordinary victory at the Home of Golf.

The Australian said his Open victory was 'awesome' - AP
The Australian said his Open victory was 'awesome' - AP

"I think to win an Open Championship in itself is probably going to be a golfer’s highlight in their career. To do it around St Andrews, I think is just unbelievable," the Brisbane-born winner said. "This place is so cool. I love the golf course. I love the town."

The Australian later committed to keeping his "lucky" mullet, but added that celebrations could be fairly low key as none of his family had flown to St Andrews to join him.

"My dad was actually meant to come over, and he pulled out in the last minute basically," he said. "I had a quick chat with him before. He's kicking himself now... I really wish he was here too. It would have been such a cool week, even without this, to be at the Home of Golf. Dad loves his golf as well. It would have been awesome."

Crowd favourite McIlroy, who won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014, was gracious in defeat. "I got beaten by the better man this week," he said. "Twenty under par round here is really impressive, especially shooting 64 to get it done. I can’t be too despondent because of how this year went. I’m playing some of the best golf I have done in a long time. It’s just a case of keep knocking on the door.

"I will be OK, it’s not life and death and I will have other chances. It’s one I feel like I let slip away but there will be other opportunities. The putter just went a little cold today compared to the last three days."

Smith had previously failed to convert chances to win a major. He finished runner-up in the 2020 Masters and was third at Augusta National in April. "To do it the way I did today was pretty cool, to be back and really apply pressure, keep holing putts," he added. "It was awesome."