Aussie Smith fires 60 to seize early PGA Northern Trust lead

New York (AFP) –


Australian Cameron Smith fired a career-low and course record 11-under par 60 to seize the clubhouse lead in Saturday's third round of the US PGA Northern Trust tournament.

The 28-year-old from Brisbane shot a bogey-free 30 on both the front and back nines to stand on 16-under par 197 after 54 holes at rain-softened Liberty National in suburban New York at the first FedEx Cup playoff event.

"The course is playing pretty soft," Smith said. "I expect the boys will get up there. We're all going to try our best."

PGA officials have already postponed the final round from Sunday to Monday because of oncoming Hurricane Henri, which raised weather warnings across the region.

Smith, whose career low had been 62, shattered the Liberty National course record that was also 62 and belonged to six players, four of whom fired it this week before Smith's stellar round.

A day after leaving Liberty National in frustration after shooting a second-round 68, Smith made a career-high 11 birdies in the round.

"I guess that's just golf. It's such a weird game," he said. "I left frustrated. I felt like I hit my driver everywhere and scrambled real well.

"I got here this morning and body felt a little bit different and ball striking was a whole lot better."

Smith birdied five of the first six holes -- his longest putt from 16 feet at the par-3 second -- and he holed out from 31 feet at the par-4 ninth, then rolled in a nine-foot birdie putt at the 10th.

The world number 28 who shared second at last year's Masters tapped in for birdies at the par-5 13th, par-3 14th and par-4 16th to reach 10-under then rolled in a four-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th.

At the 18th, Smith had a birdie putt from just inside 12 feet for a 59 but rolled the ball left of the cup and settled for 60.

"I just went through what I had done the rest of the day," Smith said. "It was just a mis-read. That was on me. I can't be too disappointed."

Smith's only solo PGA title came at the 2020 Sony Open in Hawaii, although he twice won the Zurich Classic pairs event in New Orleans, most recently in April with compatriot Marc Leishman.

Top-ranked Jon Rahm, the reigning US Open champion, was second on the course at 15-under overall, one back of Smith and 3-under for the round through seven holes.

The 26-year-old Spaniard, who captured his first major title in June at Torrey Pines, has not had a bogey this week, his best such start in a PGA event.

- Lowry, Conners shoot 62s -

Ireland's Shane Lowry and Canada's Corey Conners became the fifth and sixth players to match the course record of 62 on Saturday, little more than an hour before Smith took it for himself.

Lowry eagled the par-5 sixth, dropping his second shot inside six feet of the cup, and birdied five of the last seven holes with a bogey at the par-3 14th.

Conners shot 29 on the front nine with birdies on five of the first seven holes and holed out from 147 yards in the fairway with a 9-iron to eagle the par-4 ninth.

"Struck it really solid," Conners said of his eagle. "I saw it land. I thought it was going to be pretty good. It was a bonus for it to drop."

Conners stumbled with bogeys at the 10th after finding a fairway bunker and the par-3 14th after missing the green but also made four birdies from the 12th through 16th holes.

"Definitely found things easy," Conners said. "Struck the ball well and was able to hole some putts. Really didn't get myself in too much trouble."

The event is the first of three FedEx Cup playoff tournaments to crown a season points champion, with fields reduced to 70 next week and 30 for the Tour Championship at Atlanta in two weeks.