Cameron Smith watched World No. 1 Jon Rahm ram home a 28-foot birdie on the 17th hole that must have felt like the 500th haymaker to the face in a heavyweight title fight. It was Rahm’s 11th of the day to go with an eagle and lone bogey and saw the Spaniard join the Australian on top of the leaderboard that Smith had owned over the first two rounds and most of the third at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. It surely was a blow that might leave the plucky Aussie on the canvas as he lined up a 28-foot attempt of his own. Instead, the gritty competitor from the working-class suburbs of Brisbane nailed his ninth birdie of the round to continue an incredible contest.
Rahm won the battle on Saturday as he closed with another birdie to post a course-record 12-under 61 and join Smith at the top of the board at 26-under for the week. But Smith (64) is not ready to surrender the war as both take a five-shot buffer over Daniel Berger (66) and sit six clear of FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay (66), Australian Matt Jones (62) and South Korea’s Sungjae Im (65). Smith knows Rahm will start the favorite on Sunday but he’s far from intimidated. In fact, he revels in the underdog role.
Cameron Smith, statements
“I love to compete. Probably over the break there more so than missing golf I think I just missed competing,” Smith said. “I didn’t do a lot of stuff and it’s great to be out here and in the hunt on the weekend.
“It was really good fun out there today. Obviously playing nice golf helps. But watching Jon was pretty intense there on that back nine, some of the best golf I think I’ve ever seen, definitely some of the best putting.
“Now it’s one more day to go with him. Hopefully we can do much of the same tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”