Cameron Smith missed a 12-foot putt for a 59 on day three of The Northern Trust in New Jersey, but he and co-leader Jon Rahm will now have to wait until Monday to play the final round due to Tropical Storm Henri.
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 21/08/21 11:47pm
Cameron Smith just missed out on a magical round of 59 as he raced into a share of the 54-hole lead with Jon Rahm at The Northern Trust.
Rahm was still on the front nine at Liberty National as Smith was lining up a 12-foot putt for his 12th birdie of an outstanding day on the 18th green, but the Australian was unable to convert as he settled for “only” a 60 which hoisted him to 16 under par.
That score looked likely to leave him several shots adrift of the Spaniard, who turned in 32 and got to 17 under with a 15-footer for a two at the 11th, but he then suffered his first blemish of the tournament – a double-bogey seven after finding water with his second to the long 13th.
Rahm also flew the green with an ambitious pitch at the 16th and lost another ball to a hazard, but he birdied 17 to get back into a tie at the top with Smith, although the leading pair will have to wait a day longer than scheduled to go head-to-head in the final round.
The opening event of the FedExCup Playoffs will now conclude on Monday after the PGA Tour announced there would be no play on Sunday due to warnings from the National Hurricane Center ahead of the projected arrival of Tropical Storm Henri.
Smith was creating a storm of his own with his sensational performance after teeing off almost three hours ahead of Rahm and Tony Finau, making birdies at five of the first six holes and adding another from off the green at the ninth to hit the turn in 30.
The red-hot Aussie picked up further shots at 10 and 13 and came within a few inches of a hole-in-one at the 14th before giving himself a shot at posting the 13th sub-60 score in PGA Tour history with two more birdies at the 16th and 17th.
The 59 was very much on when he clipped a wedge to 12 feet at the last, but he misread the putt and looked on in bewilderment as his ball drifted left of its intended target.
“I actually thought it was going to kind of stay straight and then drop a little bit right there at the end off the bunker, and it just didn’t do it,” said Smith afterwards. “I hit a pretty good putt, good speed and, looking back at, it I don’t know how I read it to go that way, but it is what it is.
“I haven’t been in that situation before, it was completely new to me. I just tried to get up there and do what I did the rest of the day, hit a good drive, and my driver definitely put me in that spot today for all those birdies.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
“It’s been a bit of a rough trot with the driver of late. I felt like it’s got away from me a little bit, and it was nice to see a lot of drives, a lot of good drives today.”
Smith also felt the unexpected day off between rounds could work to his advantage, adding: “I always think it’s hard to back up a really good round, so maybe the day off will help me out. I don’t know what I’m going to do on Sunday, I’ve never been in this situation either!
“Probably just a little bit of a rest. A round like this usually takes it out of you a little bit, the adrenaline, the highs and the lows. Sleep in, maybe a little bit of gym and come out Monday firing.”
Rahm was proud of his resolve after twice responding to his back-nine mistakes with birdies as the world No 1 retained a share of the lead, while recent Barracuda Championship winner Erik Van Rooyen propelled himself into outright third on 15 under after a 10-birdie 62, a round he started with a bogey.
The South African edged one shot ahead of Justin Thomas (67) and Tony Finau (68), while Shane Lowry also took advantage of the favourable scoring conditions and carded an eagle and eight birdies in his 62, sweeping him to 13 under alongside Viktor Hovland and Tom Hoge.