14 Mar 2021 | Professional golf |

Smith vaults on to Players leaderboard

by Martin Blake

Cam Smith Players image
Cameron Smith celebrates his long birdie at No. 17 today. Photo: Getty

Cameron Smith roared up the leaderboard at The Players today at Sawgrass in Florida with a stunning, third-round 65.

The Australian chipped in off a sprinkler head for eagle and overall had a superb day on his adopted home course before heading home to jump in his swimming pool. Smith, the world No. 27, had seven birdies to go with his eagle at the short par-four 12th. He also threw in a double bogey six at the par-four 10th hole where he tugged his tee shot into the trees and messed up his second shot. But in his characteristic way, Smith made a miraculous recovery at the par-four 18th hole after his tee shot leaked right and up against a tree trunk. His nine iron second somehow found the green and he two-putted for a seven under par round that puts him at seven under overall, a handful of shots from the lead. "The way that the tree was angled, I had to aim out right and hit a big draw," he said. "Obviously there was trees down the right. I didn't have too much in the initial path. It was kind of that last tree right on the end that we were worried about, because I kind of had to like thin it, as well, if you know what I mean. I think if I went in there with my normal attack angle I would have hit the tree." Although Smith lives near the course at Ponta Vedra Beach and practises at Sawgrass, he said the tournament version was much harder and firmer. "So it's completely a different golf course," he said. "It demands so much more. I've played this golf course so many times that I know it can bite you in the bum even though you're playing good. It's just a tricky golf course." Smith made a bomb for birdie from long range at the island green 17th, but the high point was his chip in from more than 15 metres short of the 12th green after a strong three wood tee shot. His chip hit a concealed sprinkler head and deviated, but ultimately went in anyway.

"It was one of those sprinkler heads that they kind of cover up, and it kind of just got the edge of it and it bounced a little right, and I was like, oh -- I thought I hit a really good chip shot and it bounced right, and then kind of broke more than I thought and went in."

At seven under par Smith is tied-11th, six shots back from Englishman Lee Westwood's lead at 13 under. He will need to go just as low or lower tomorrow to win the $US15 million tournament.

The 47-year-old Westwood leads by two from Bryson DeChambeau, and is on the verge of what would likely be the biggest win of his outstanding career.

Jason Day (71 today) is the next-best Australian in Florida, just outside the top 20.

MAVERICK Antcliff is the leading Australian in 24th spot through three rounds of the European Tour's Qatar Masters.

The Players leaderboard

European Tour leaderboard

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