Smith falls out of British Open contention
Cameron Smith is targeting another top-five major finish after falling out of British Open contention with a rugged third round at Royal Portrush.
Australia's last hope rode an emotional rollercoaster in carding a luckless even-par 71 on Saturday to fall 10 shots adrift of runaway leader Shane Lowry. After starting the day just two strokes back and briefly pulling to within one after a birdie on the second hole, three momentum-stopping three-putts cruelled Smith's chances.
The 25-year-old will need a golfing miracle to challenge for the Claret Jug when he tees off on Sunday at six under for the championship with some of the sport's biggest names above him on the leaderboard, not to mention Irishman Lowry at 16 under after his breathtaking 63.
A more realistic goal is adding his first top-five result at The Open to his tied fourth on debut at the 2014 US Open and last year's equal fifth at the Masters.
"I think the conditions are (meant to be) pretty bad tomorrow so if we hit it like that and a few of the putts go in, we'll be right up there," Smith said after finding 14 of 18 greens in a solid ball-striking display on Saturday. But in perfect scoring conditions, with barely a breath of wind to contend with and the sun blazing down on the Irish coastal links course, Smith was the only player in the top 20 not to return a red number.
"It was very up and down. Felt as though I probably struck it the best I've struck it all week," Smith said.
"Hit lots of good putts. Some were short, some went just over the edge and it was just one of those days.
"I couldn't get the pace of the greens today. It felt like from 15, 20 feet, I was leaving everything a foot or two short." The only Australian to make the halfway cut made the perfect start to his round. He knocked an approach to a metre to make birdie on the par-5 second to climb to seven under and briefly trail Lowry and joint halfway leader JB Holmes by one. But his first three-putt, when he lipped out on the third, stalled his progress and then another on the 10th had Smith shaking his head after slipping to five under.
He looked to have ignited his round with an electrifying eagle on the 12th after cracking the shot of the day, a brilliant six iron from the rough, to half a metre.
He then birdied the par-3 13th and marched to the 14th tee high-fiving fans after edging back to within four of the lead.
But a dreaded double-bogey six after finding sand off the tee, then hitting through the green and three-putting on the way back knocked the wind out of Smith's sails.
"As I was walking off the 12th tee, I said to myself: 'Let's try and get to eight (under). Let's get three more (birdies)'," he said.
"And it happened so quickly. It was almost like 'wow, we have to readjust this'. "On 14, I hit a pretty solid drive and hit a shot into the green that really wasn't that bad and got a bit of a goofy lie and ended up making six. "That's just golf sometimes."