25 Apr 2021 | Professional golf |
Smith, Leish poised for Zurich shootout
by Martin Blake
Australians Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith are in the final group for the Zurich Classic teams event after another dazzling best-ball round on day three in New Orleans today.
For Queenslander Smith, it is a chance to win the event for the second time, after his 2017 win alongside Jonas Blixt. He is now the top-ranked Australian male in the world at No. 25.
Leishman, who ran the clippers over Smith's hair before the event, donned a wig at the opening tee making light of his playing partner's long locks and their chosen introductory song. "Yeah, I guess if you pick a song like the mullet song you've got to commit to it," he said. "Thought I'd get the mullet up and grow one quick enough. Fertilizer doesn't quite work on hair like it does on grass. "No, just a bit of fun. Got a few laughs on the first tee and lightened the mood, I guess, helped our start. We got off to a good start today. It probably won't come out tomorrow I don't think; concentrate on that first tee shot. "
Smith knew it was coming. "He didn't want to tell me, but he was afraid that I'd be in stitches if he just pulled that prank on me on the first tee. No, it would have been -- I wouldn't have been able to hit my first tee shot if he didn't tell me, to be honest. I would have been cracking up. I would have been crying probably."
But they were all business beyond that moment of levity.
The Aussies made nine birdies and no bogeys today, matching their four-ball score from Thursday and leaping from fourth into a tie for second place. At 18 under par overall, they are a shot behind South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen who also shot 63 today.
Americans Cameron Champ and Tony Finau also are at 18 under and there are a bunch of winning chances entering the final day, which has a foursomes format, meaning they will play with a single ball and alternate tee shots.
Smith and Leishman shot an even-par 72 in this format on Friday. Close friends, they were runner-up in the World Cup of Golf at Metropolitan in Melbourne a couple of years ago.
Smith has been the hotter player in the opening two rounds but today at TPC Louisiana Victorian Leishman made five birdies to keep the momentum running. Smith made four birdies himself and was particularly dialled in on the front nine.
Leishman's improved play could prove significant because Smith is at his best already. "I'm feeling a lot better over the ball today than I did the first two rounds, so if I can play good, Cam keeps doing what he's doing, I think we're a good chance," said Leishman. "But a lot can happen in foursomes, and so many other good players up at the top of the leaderboard. A lot has to go right, but hopefully we can do our job and make some birdies and give the guys ahead something to think about."
The Zurich Classic has a prize pool of $US7.4 million with more than $1 million each to the winners.
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