Cameron Young, the PGA Tour’s hottest rookie, was overshadowed at St. Andrews, but big things are ahead
Very rarely does the second-place finisher’s name get lost in the crowd, but that’s exactly what happened at St. Andrews. It was Rory McIlroy’s tournament to lose on Sunday morning. He was tied with Viktor Hovland and had a four-shot lead over a duo of Camerons. But when Cameron Smith decided that par was no longer an acceptable score — his back-nine 30 (six under) is the lowest of an Open champion — Cameron Young was overlooked.
“I did everything I could,” Young said.
He did. The 25-year-old rookie carded a back-nine 31 and walked off the 18th green in dramatic fashion. He drove the 356-yard par-4 with his notorious, Hideki-like pause before the whole town of St. Andrews, savoring the last few minutes of action. Young holed his putt for an eagle, which would jump McIlroy on the leaderboard for solo second place, earning him an additional $500,000.
If Smith didn’t two-putt from several paces short of the 18th green, Young would have joined him in a playoff. Maybe McIlroy would’ve made birdie as well, given the change in circumstance. But Smith didn’t let this butterfly effect unfold.
“Cameron [Smith] was not going to miss that,” Young said regarding Smith’s short birdie putt, which sealed the win as soon as McIlroy wasn’t able to chip in for eagle a few minutes later.
Despite not getting to store the Claret Jug in the overhead compartment on his flight home, Young’s trip to Scotland was objectively impressive.
“It probably hurts a little worse to come up one shot short,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve been in this situation. I’ve at least been around the lead a lot this year.”
While the Wake Forest alum hasn’t recorded a win this PGA Tour season, he’s well on his way to becoming Rookie of the Year. Currently ranked 13th in the FedEx Cup standings, Young has six top 10s and four second-place finishes.
This was no major fluke, either. In May, Young tied for third at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
“I think I’ve made so many mistakes, even in tournaments that I’ve been close to winning,” he said. “I just have to wait for that to come together.”
And it will. He knows how to close out a tournament; he won two Korn Ferry Tour events last year, three collegiate tournaments for Wake Forest, and the New York State Open. As long as he keeps knocking, it’s just a matter of time until he wins on the PGA Tour.
There’s a lot to look forward to for the Tour’s best rookie. After taking 3M Open week off to recoup, Young has a handful of events left this season. He’s also in good position to be a Presidents Cup pick this fall (he currently ranks 14th in the standings).
“Watching [Cameron Smith] make a million birdies in a row is in one sense good because it pushes you.” Young said. “There will be more.”