Morning Chronicle - Cameron Smith defends overnight lead in British Open third round

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Cameron Smith defends overnight lead in British Open third round
Cameron Smith defends overnight lead in British Open third round / Photo: Paul ELLIS - AFP

Cameron Smith defends overnight lead in British Open third round

Cameron Smith teed off in the third round of the 150th British Open in splendid sunshine at St Andrews on Saturday with the Australian defending his overnight lead after sitting at 13 under par at the halfway stage while some of golf's biggest names lurked just behind.

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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 by two strokes from Cameron Young, the 25-year-old New Yorker who sat at 11-under.

However, 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.

The leading contenders returned to the Old Course on Saturday afternoon with Smith and Young going out as the final pairing at 3:55pm (1455 GMT).

Brisbane-native Smith's halfway total of 131 was the lowest ever 36-hole score in an Open at St Andrews, but he began his third round with a bogey at the first hole.

"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," Smith, who won the Players Championship in March, said on Friday.

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 led after the first round having opened with a 64 and followed that with a 69 on Friday, 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 to sit on 10-under, level in third place at the halfway stage with Viktor Hovland.

"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," said McIlroy, who is looking to claim a second Claret Jug following his 2014 victory at Hoylake.

McIlroy went out alongside Hovland, Norway's world number nine, in the penultimate pairing of the day.

Former world number one Johnson, who quit the PGA Tour last month to join the LIV series, sat at nine-under overnight as he went out 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 on Friday.

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

- Fleetwood, Kisner impress -

However, England's Tommy Fleetwood -- the runner-up at Royal Portrush in 2019 -- moved onto nine-under overall after a superb six-under-par round of 66 on Saturday.

Earlier, Kevin Kisner recorded a 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 card.

"I can compete here for sure. When it's playing that firm and fast, length is not overly dominant," said Kisner.

Thomas Pieters is also at seven-under for the championship after a 67 with the Belgian one of several players to make an eagle at the par-four ninth on Saturday.

Tiger Woods, who has twice won the Open at St Andrews, missed the cut in what could be his final appearance here after rounds of 78 and 75 left him at nine-over.

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