Reigning Open champion Cameron Smith held off Dustin Johnson and Peter Uihlein down the stretch to win the LIV Golf Chicago Invitational.
The 29-year-old from Brisbane fired a three-under-par 69 to finish on 13-under 203 in the 54-hole shotgun start event at Rich Harvest Farms.
World No 3 Smith finished with back-to-back birdies, the last from 20 feet, to defeat two-time Major winner Johnson and Uihlein by three strokes.
South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel finished T6 on seven under after final rounds of 69 and 71, respectively.
Nine weeks after capturing the Claret Jug at St Andrews, Smith said he needed a victory to send a message to critics of his decision to jump from the PGA Tour to the Saudi-backed upstart series.
“I think I had to prove to myself and some other people that I’m a great player, that I’m out here to win golf tournaments,” Smith said.
LIV Golf’s record prize money has helped lure several big-name PGA defections, prompting the PGA to issue indefinite bans on former members and spark an antitrust lawsuit in the United States set for trial in 2024.
Smith’s departure was a big blow for the PGA Tour, where he’d won the Tournament of Champions in January, The Players Championship in March and his first Major title in July at St Andrews.
Smith added a $4-million LIV Golf top prize from a $25m purse to a 2022 riches haul that includes $1.47m for the Tournament of Champions win, $3.6m at the Players and $2.5m at The Open.
Smith took a three-stroke lead after Johnson opened with a bogey at the 1st hole.
Smith missed a six-foot par putt to bogey the 4th and a poor blast out of a bunker at the 6th led to another bogey.
Both birdied the par-five 7th but Smith rolled in a five-foot birdie putt at the 8th and, after Johnson made back-to-back bogeys at 8 and 9, it was Uihlein who trailed Smith by three at the turn.
“I didn’t have my best stuff the first eight or nine holes but I struck it nice down the back nine.”
Smith chipped within inches of the hole and tapped in for birdie at the par-five 11th. He took a bogey at the par-three 16th, lipping out on a short par putt, but denied his US rivals with his closing birdies.
“A little disappointed in the way I played,” said Johnson, who shot 70. “I hit a lot of good putts. Just nothing would go in the hole.”
Johnson’s 4 Aces won the team event for the fourth consecutive time.
© Agence France-Presse