Morning Chronicle - Cameron Smith gets ready to defend overnight lead in British Open third round

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Cameron Smith gets ready to defend overnight lead in British Open third round
Cameron Smith gets ready to defend overnight lead in British Open third round / Photo: Glyn KIRK - AFP

Cameron Smith gets ready to defend overnight lead in British Open third round

The third round of the 150th British Open got underway in the sunshine at St Andrews on Saturday with Australia's Cameron Smith leading on 13 under par at the halfway stage, two shots clear of Cameron Young while some of golf's biggest names lurk just behind.

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Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and world number one Scottie Scheffler all ended the second round in a position to challenge for the Claret Jug over the weekend and the leading contenders return to the course later on Saturday.

Smith, the world number six with the trademark mullet, followed an opening 67 with an eight-under-par second round of 64 on Friday to lead from Young, the 25-year-old New Yorker who sits at 11-under.

Brisbane-native Smith's halfway total of 131 is the lowest ever 36-hole score in an Open at St Andrews.

"It's obviously a really good spot to be in. I feel like I've been in this spot a lot over the past couple of years, and things just haven't quite gone my way yet," said Smith, who won the Players Championship in March.

Smith, who finished tied second behind Johnson in the Masters in 2020, is aiming to become the first Australian to win the Claret Jug since Greg Norman triumphed at Royal St George's in 1993.

Norman, who won the Open twice and is now the figurehead of LIV Golf, was not invited by organisers the R&A to attend a series of events for past champions in St Andrews this week because of his connection to the breakaway Saudi-backed series.

Young, who tees off with Smith at 3:55pm (1455 GMT), had led after the first round after opening with a 64 and followed that with a 69 on Friday, ensuring he will go out in the final pairing.

He is appearing at his first British Open but finished tied third in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in May.

- 'I've got the game' -

However, there is a sense in St Andrews that the main threat to Smith may come from McIlroy, who built on his opening 66 with a 68 on Friday and is on 10-under, level in third place at the halfway stage with Viktor Hovland.

He will feel he now has a platform to go on and claim a second Claret Jug following his 2014 victory at Hoylake.

"I know I've got the game. That's all I need. I just need to go out and play my game and play my golf over the next two days and that's all I can do," McIlroy said.

The Northern Irishman tees off at 3:45pm alongside Hovland, Norway's world number nine.

Former world number one Johnson, who quit the PGA Tour last month to join the LIV series, sits at nine-under and goes out in the third-last pairing of the day with Scheffler.

Johnson, the two-time major winner, is hoping to avoid any repeat of the last Open at St Andrews in 2015, when he led at the halfway stage on 10-under but a third-round 75 ended his hopes.

"To be honest, I don't even remember the third round from seven years ago. I've played a lot of golf since then, and that was a long time ago," he insisted.

Masters champion Scheffler and England's Tyrrell Hatton were both eight-under at the halfway stage.

- Kisner makes early surge -

Kevin Kisner made the biggest impression among the early starters on Saturday, shooting a seven-under-par round of 65 after beginning the day at level-par for the championship.

The American, who came tied second in 2018 at Carnoustie, at one point looked poised to at least equal the lowest score in an Open at St Andrews of 63 as he birdied seven of his first 10 holes.

He had nine birdies altogether, but two bogeys on the inward nine blemished his round.

Tiger Woods, who has twice won the Open at St Andrews, missed the cut on Friday after rounds of 78 and 75 left him at nine-over.

This week may turn out to have been the 46-year-old's last appearance on the Old Course and the emotion got to him as he wiped away tears while saluting the crowds on the 18th.

"To me it felt like this might have been my last British Open here at St Andrews. The fans, the ovation and the warmth, it was an unbelievable feeling," Woods said.

Last year's champion Collin Morikawa, at one-over, also missed the cut which fell at even par.