Aussie World No. 6 Cameron Smith has had a brutal third day at The Open but is still within striking distance of the leaders ahead of the final day at St Andrews.
Smith led after two days with a halfway total of 131 is the lowest ever 36-hole score in an Open at the home of golf.
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But Smith wasn’t able to back up his 67 and 64 rounds to start the tournament, going +1 in shooting 73.
After tallying six birdies in the second round, Smith shot two birdies, a bogey and a double bogey on the 13th to drop to -12 for the tournament, four shots off the leaders in Norway’s Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy at -16.
Smith said after the round he was happy with how he was hitting the ball but luck deserted him.
“The golfing gods weren’t with me today. I felt like I hit a lot of good putts with nothing really dropping,” Smith said.
“I stuck in there pretty good and I hit the ball pretty good. It’s probably actually the best I’ve hit it all week. Had lots of opportunities, just no putts were dropping which was quite frustrating.”
Smith started with a three-putt bogey on the first, but it was the 13th that caused the most issues.
The Aussie had to hit a baseball style second shot while standing in a bunker, knocking the ball into rough, which took two shots to get it out.
“I thought I hit a perfect drive down there. It’s kind of a blind tee shot so you can’t really see,” he said.
“It must have got a bit of a bad kick and then it ended up where it was. It just wasn’t my day today. To get something like that after an already frustrating first 12 holes was hard.
“(The second shot) I was just trying to hit it up over the stuff. Somewhere left of the pin, there was so much room up there, I thought I could do it but obviously not. Just mis-hit it. It was a bit of a hard swing.”
In good news however, Smith is among four players along with the leaders and US star Cameron Young within four strokes of the lead as no one has ever come from further back after three rounds to win the title.
Fans were blown away over Smith’s brutal round.
However Smith will have his work cut out for him as McIlroy and Hovland pulled away.
McIlroy began the week as the favourite and has lived up to expectations, with rounds of 66, 68 and now 66 again.
That is identical to his first three rounds at Hoylake in 2014, when he won his only British Open to date.
The difference is that then he was six shots clear going into the final day, while this time he has Hovland for company atop the leaderboard.
“I just have to just stick to my game plan,” McIlroy said.
“That’s the only thing I can do, and I’ve done that well for the last three days. And it’s put me in this position. I just need to do it for one more day.” The highlight of McIlroy’s day was a sensational chip-in from a bunker for an eagle two at the 10th.
“I think it was the first bunker I put it in this week. And it was a nice result,” he said.
The Northern Irishman also had five birdies with the one blemish on his card a bogey at the difficult 17th, the Road Hole.
Hovland’s own six-under-par round featured six birdies and not a single dropped shot.
Whatever happens on Sunday, the 24-year-old Norwegian world number nine, who played college golf in the US, seems certain to claim his best ever finish in a major, better than his 12th place in last year’s Open.
“That was pretty cool. I’m probably not going to forget that one too quickly,” said Hovland, who could be the first Norwegian to win a major.
“I played great, but it was also cool to trade some holes with Rory as well.”