Cameron Smith says he will seek revenge on St Andrews’ Old Course on the final day, after squandering his Open Championship lead during a frustrating third round that he only just managed to save from disaster.
Smith went from having a two-shot overnight lead to finishing Saturday four behind 54-hole leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland, who climbed to 16-under-par with matching 66s. Smith and his playing partner Cameron Smith (71) were tied third at 12 under. World No.1 Scottie Scheffler (11 under), Dustin Johnson (10 under) Matt Fitzpatrick and Adam Scott (nine under) are just some of the players within seven shots.
World No.6 Smith three-putted the first hole and it set the tone for his one-over 73, one of only two over par rounds from players within the top 20. At the par-4 13th, Smith chose to make a full swing from an awkward stance when his ball was sitting on the lip of a fairway bunker, which he caught heavy en route to a double-bogey.
“I thought I hit a perfect drive down there; it must have got a bad kick and ended up where it was,” he said. “It wasn’t my day; to get something like that (happen) after an already frustrating 11 or 12 holes.”
After setting an unofficial PGA Tour record on Friday for the most feet of of putts made during a round (255 feet), Smith only made 50 feet of putts on Saturday. He missed short birdie tries at the par-5 fifth, as well as the seventh, 12th, 15th and 18th.
“No putts were dropping, and it was quite frustrating,” Smith said after his round. “It’s probably the best I’ve struck the ball all week; I had lots of opportunities.”
But Smith is at least on the right side of history. Every winner from the 29 previous Opens at St Andrews has been within four shots of the lead starting the final day.
Smith said he would channel his anger during the final round into throwing every weapon he has at St Andrews.
“It’s always hard to back up a good round and to have one like that was frustrating, but it’ll definitely motivate me tomorrow,” Smith said. “I love making birdies. I love making putts and that’s what I need to do out there. Stay aggressive. I’ll have a slightly different game plan off a couple of tees and try to make a ton of birdies.”
Smith will play in the second-to-last group on Sunday with Young at 2.40pm local (11.40pm AEST).
Smith will face a tough task in reeling in Hovland and crowd favourite McIlroy, who sent the galleries into a spin when he holed out from a bunker for eagle at the short par-4 10th.
Perhaps Smith, and others chasing Hovland and McIlroy, will hope the pressure will be too much to handle. Hovland has not won a Major while McIlroy faces daily questions about why he is winless at the Majors since the 2014 PGA Championship.
McIlroy himself is not concerned, though.
“I’m playing a golf tournament and I’ve got myself in a great position after three days,” said McIlroy, who received deafening cheers from the UK crowd throughout the round. “I’ve finished off enough golf tournaments in my time to feel like I know what to do tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Adam Scott was next best of the Australians after carding a 70 to climb to nine under and seven back of the lead. The 2013 Masters winner laughed when asked if he dreamed of a final round 62, but said it was plausible at the Old Course.
“It is … I know it’s not been done in the Open at St Andrews, but it’s possible,” he said. “Guys out early today were really shooting some numbers. You never know. You can make long putts around here.”
Scott’s fellow Queenslander Anthony Quayle was the only Australian of the seven in action to break 70 on Saturday. His 68 put him at five under and inside the top 25.
Lucas Herbert and Min Woo Lee both shot 73 to drop to five under alongside Quayle. Brad Kennedy (72) was four under while Jason Scrivener (71) was two under.