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 a Sunday afternoon in late November 2017 when he fulfilled a boyhood dream and captured the Australian Open.
In only his second appearance in his national championship 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 Jonas 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. Pre-tournament favourite Jordan Spieth closed with a 67 for eighth place.
Many fans expected a man wearing the Nike ‘swoosh’ to prevail. However, it wasn’t Day but the world No.1,494 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 shot from the 18th fairway.
“This is a dream come true,” Davis said 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 after 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 didn’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. In 2016, 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 (in October 2016) and received an invitation to return to the same venue to compete in the 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 the 2016 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 moneylist.
Momentum was found when Davis returned to The Australian Golf Club that November, then left with the Stonehaven Cup.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence,” he said. “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.”