Cameron Smith extended his lead at the top of the LIV Bedminster Invitational in New Jersey to four shots with a round of four under par, leaving him at -9 for the tournament.
Smith started off by paring the first two holes before a double bogey on the third looked like it might set the Australian back significantly. But in his typically laid-back and unfazed manner, he steadied the ship and made the two shots back before the turn with birdies on the sixth and eighth holes.
The 2022 Open Champion then went to work on the back nine, with four birdies between the 12th and 16th holes. A bogey in the middle of this glut of birdies was the only blemish on his back nine but gained another shot with a birdie on the eighteenth to cap off another impressive round.
“It’s nice to have it,” he said of his lead after shooting a 4-under 67 on Saturday. “I wouldn’t say it’s close to in the bag yet. There was a couple of tee shots out there where it gets pretty narrow, and if the driver is getting whirly, you’re hitting 3 off the tee. About as comfortable as I can be at a course like this.”
Dean Burmester and Phil Mickelson are the closest challengers to the Australian after their rounds of three and four under par respectively.
A level par front nine by Burmester was improved upon after the turn, sinking four birdies as he endeavoured to replicate Smith’s impressive back nine showing.
Mickelson on the other hand had a solid round throughout as he climbed up the leaderboard and into joint second. Three birdies on the front nine set him up nicely for the remaining holes, with a bogey on the fourteenth the only reason he didn’t end the day in second outright.
Smith, Burmester and Mickelson will be in the leaders group – and for Mickelson, it’s the first time in his 18 regular-season LIV Golf starts that he’ll play in the final group on a Sunday with the T2 position his best after any LIV Golf round.
“It would mean a lot to me to win one of these events,” said the 53-year-old, seeking his first professional win since the 2021 PGA Championship. “I am really trying hard. That’s a strong goal of mine. I’m working really hard to do it.
“This is a great stepping-stone for me to build on and to have that opportunity tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
The round of the day, however, came from Anirban Lahiri whose score of 64 catapulted the Indian golfer into joint fourth alongside Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed.
Lahiri’s stunning golf on the second day of play has wiped his tournament slate clean and made up for his three-over-par showing in the opening round.
Six birdies on his first nine holes (the 10th to 18th) gave the Crushers GC player an unexpected jump up the standings, leaving him in a position to make a push on the final day of play.
Regarding the team standings, Ripper GC are now level with Stinger GC for the tournament with both sides deadlocked at eleven under par through two rounds.
Burmester’s countrymen Brandon Grace and Louis Oosthuizen’s rounds of two and three under respectively levelled the Rainbow Nation-led side with the all-Aussie Ripper GC.
RangeGoats GC make up the top three with solid performances in Round 2 by Tyler Gooch (-1), Thomas Pieters (-2) and captain Bubba Watson (-2), with the team scoring seven-under-par for the tournament going into Round 3.
The featured groups tomorrow tee off just after 1 pm local time (6pm Irish time), with the winner likely to come from one of these groups.