[PHOTO: Sarah Reed/Getty Images]

American Brendan Steele leads, but the HyFlyers star’s one-shot buffer will make him a marked man in front of 30,000 parochial Aussies on Sunday at Grange Golf Club.

Steele played some outstanding golf on day two at LIV Golf Adelaide, turning in nine birdies and a bogey to jump to 14-under and top a star-studded leaderboard that includes Cam Smith (11-under) and Matt Jones (10-under). Seven players sit within three shots of Steele’s individual lead.

But he knows the hardest part is yet to come: navigating a parochial Aussie crowd who will be willing the all-Aussie Ripper GC line-up over the line.

“It’s going to be tough because there are a lot of birdies out there,” Steele said after the round. “It’s kind of a race to 20-under par, I think, at this point. For me personally, I just want to go and play as freely as I can. I’ve been doing that well the past couple days, and if I can do it for one more day, then I think I can have a good chance.”

Brendan Steele compiled as ‘easy’ an eight-under round as was possible today. [Photo: Sarah Reed/Getty Images]

Smith, who shot a bogey-free round of seven-under, said the pressure of expectation at his home LIV event is welcome, but can be draining.

“It definitely makes it harder – it’s not making it any easier out there,” the 30-year-old said. “I think the support is amazing, but there’s a lot going through your mind every second of the day. It’s very tiring. Yeah, it’s kind of a good and a bad thing at the same time.

“Having support like we have this week is different to what we have 51 other weekends out of the year. It’s a very different feeling. I think the support is amazing, but there’s also a lot of pressure put on you, as well, to perform.

“I think not only us but probably every other Australian wants us to do well and wants us to win tomorrow. That’s a lot of weight on the shoulders as it is, but yeah, we’re ready for tomorrow.”

Jones, meanwhile, is doing his best to feed off the resounding wave of support.

“They’ve been unbelievable,” Jones said of the fans. “The amount of times people just yell out your name going down every hole, it’s unbelievable, and it’s fantastic to satisfy. They’ve showed up to support the team this week, and hopefully tomorrow can be a really good day for us.”

Tomorrow represents a far better chance for the home quartet to author an Adelaide victory compared to the inaugural edition a year ago, when Talor Gooch at the individual title sewn up with a day to go. The Ripper four are confident they have what it takes to spark a final-day surge.

“We were all feeling really comfortable with where our game’s at,” Smith said. “I said at the start of the week [that] I think we’ve done a better job with managing our time and a better preparation on the golf course, and it’s kind of showing.

“Obviously Herby (Lucas Herbert) didn’t have his best stuff yesterday, but showed up today with a seven-under, which was pretty nice for us in the team standings.

“Four scores counting tomorrow is a different game, and we’ve all got to show up and probably with our best stuff to win.”

Jones, who has had fewer chances to taste individual glory in his time on LIV Golf, knows what he needs to do in the final round.

“I’m going to have to play the back nine like I’ve played it the past two days, and I’m going to have to play really well on the front nine,” he said. “‘Steeley’ is not going to come back. I played with him today, and he played brilliantly. It was a very easy eight-under. I can’t see him going backwards again. We’re going to have to hit a lot of good shots and give ourselves a lot of good putts.”

In a piece of good fortune for which he was apologetic, Smith received a good bounce back into the fairway on the 17th hole when his wayward drive struck a female spectator in the back. He converted the good break into a timely birdie.

“It was a good bounce, for sure,” he said. “I felt really bad for the lady down there. I hit her in the back.

“It probably wasn’t going to be in the trees but it was going to be in the rough and a different lie, so it could have been a different outcome. But [I] made her proud and made a birdie there, and she helped me out. Hopefully that eased the pain a little bit for her.”

Cam Smith hugs spectator Annette Blake after his wayward tee shot on the 17th hole hit the spectator on the back and bounced back onto the fairway. [Photo: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images]

With twin goals in view, the Ripper GC quartet are carrying out a plan hatched since they left Adelaide last April.

“We’ve spoken about [it] literally the past year, and… for us to be in the position that we’re in after Saturday is a pretty cool spot,” Smith said.

“We had a really good chance in Hong Kong to get a team win. Didn’t quite pan out the way we wanted there. But I’d like to think we’ve all been playing some really solid golf, particularly these past two or three events, and yeah, [it] just all kind of needs to blend together on the last day. With those four scores counting, it can be quite tough.

“I feel like if you’re within probably four or five shots that just goes back to zero almost. It can happen in one hole. We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen the Crushers come back from 12 or 13 back, I think it was in Saudi. Yeah, you can’t sleep on a one or two-shot lead in the team event.”

The Ripper GC boys are now soaking in the post-LIV, on-site concert by Australian DJ Fisher. After that they’ll sleep – not on the lead, but on an opportunity to leave the first victorious mark by an Aussie on a LIV Golf tournament in this country.