Open champion Cameron Smith hit back at criticism of his move to LIV Golf after winning his first title on the Saudi-backed big-money circuit on Sunday night.
Smith carded a final round of 69 to finish on 13 under par and win by three shots from Dustin Johnson and Peter Uihlein at Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago.
It earned the Australian £3.5m in prize money and delivered a riposte to those who decried his £100m switch to the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
“I think I had to prove to myself and some other people that I am still a great player. I am still out here to win tournaments,” said Smith.
”I didn’t have my best stuff, but I stuck tough and made some putts.”
The world No3’s victory also saw him strike back in a nascent friendly rivalry with long-time former world No1 Johnson.
On his LIV Golf debut in Boston two weeks ago, Smith narrowly missed out on a three-man play-off won by the American, but here he kept him and Uihlein at arm’s length with consecutive birdies at the last two holes.
“He’s probably the one who you look at feeling he’s going to be at the top of the leaderboard every week,” Smith added. “I hope he thinks the same of me, and hopefully, we can keep it going.”
While Johnson had to settle with a tie for second place worth £1.6m, he captained 4 Aces to success in the team competition for a fourth consecutive LIV event.
That earned him and team-mates Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch and Pat Perez an additional £650,000 each. Johnson has now made around £11m from the first five LIV Golf events.
Smith’s win also prompted LIV Golf chief Greg Norman to renew calls for the series to be recognised by the Official World Golf Rankings system.
Norman said in June that it was applying for inclusion but has yet to be successful, a move that is effectively punishing LIV Golf participants.
“How can the OWGR ignore the fact that the two best players in the world – Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson – play on the tour?” he wrote on social media.
Elsewhere in golf, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre achieved the biggest win of his career and boosted his Ryder Cup hopes at the Italian Open.
MacIntyre beat US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick at the first hole of a play-off at the Marco Simone Club, where the biennial clash between Europe and the US is due to be held next year.
The 26-year-old made 10 birdies in a closing 64 but consecutive bogeys on the back nine let in Fitzpatrick, who finished alongside him on 14 under par.
Frenchman Victor Perez was a shot further back, one ahead of world No2 Rory McIlroy, who leads Fitzpatrick in the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai standings.
“This means everything,” said MacIntyre. “I was down and out two or three months ago. I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know where to go. But we spoke to the right people and I’ve hit two perfect golf shots into the last there.”
On the PGA Tour, meanwhile, England’s Danny Willett blew a chance to win the Fortinet Championship in California.
Having seen Max Homa join him on 16 under par with a fine chip at the last, Willett missed a birdie chance from three feet and then the follow-up putt to take Homa to a play-off.
“Disappointing way to finish, but you know, first event of the season, to be in contention, things are in a good place,” said Willett. “We’ll live to fight another day.”