JERSEY CITY, NJ
Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith were tied at The Northern Trust on Saturday and no one could imagine how they got there.
Smith had never shot better than 62 – twice this year on the PGA Tour, once at his home club in Brisbane, Australia – when he played 60 rounds on the PGA Tour on the 18th.
He missed and had to settle for the course record of 11 under 60 and thought that would at least keep him within reach of the world’s number 1.
“Jon is playing pretty well right now so we’ll have to try to catch up,” said Smith.
Thanks to cream, he did it.
The US Open champion took four birdies on a six-hole course around the corner to regain the lead and had good chances to score. But he hit the second and third light holes twice in the water, left three hits together and had to collect himself on a 67.
You were at 16-under 197 and now have a day off because of Hurricane Henri. The PGA Tour made its way around and there was enough rain and dangerous wind on the edges of the storm that they decided to close Liberty National on Sunday. The last round takes place on Monday.
With more rain and no more golf possible, Rahm wanted the 54-hole lead. At worst, he was determined not to fall behind.
“I didn’t want to leave it to chance,” he says.
Rahm didn’t find too much to complain about in his game. He thought his 4-iron in the 13th par-5 was a flush and started moving forward while waiting for the ball to hit the green. He noticed that his caddy wasn’t moving.
“It was a little higher than I expected and it seems like the wind has picked up a bit,” said Rahm. “It looked like it was that short, so it’s one of the things that happens in golf.”
He took a penalty drop, pulled his next shot into the thick grass on an embankment, and did a double bogey.
Rahm was only to the left of the accessible par-4 course 16, which he thought was a soft lie. The idea was to give yourself a chance at birdie and, in the worst case, be the same. But it came out hot, rolled over the green and into the water, and led to the bogey.
Rahm and Smith were one stroke ahead of Erik van Rooyen of South Africa, who made 10 birdies for a 62, one of four rounds with a 62 or lower.
Justin Thomas (67) and Tony Finau (68) were three shots behind. Shane Lowry and Corey Conners shot 62 each and stayed in the mix.
The average score in the third round was 68.3
Smith tee off about three hours ahead of the leaders and opened with five birdies on six holes, one of several good starts. However, the Australian stuck to it. He got his eighth birdie on the 13th, got a hole-in-one on the 14th and thought of 59.
Smith narrowly missed an eagle putt on the 16th, hit a stiff wedge on the 17th to get 11 under for the round, and was a birdie away from the 13th sub-60 on the PGA Tour. His approach to the 18th was 12 feet to the right of the flag.
“Just didn’t do it,” said Smith.
Rahm had an excellent par-parade over the 14th green, hit it with a short birdie on the 15th to regain part of the lead. And after his bogey on the 16th hole, he responded with another birdie on the 17th hole.
And now a rest day over. That’s not the worst scenario for Smith as he knows it will be hard to come back and try to get there the day after a record result. It’s not the worst for those staying across the Hudson River in Manhattan.
“There are the worst cities to get stuck in,” Lowry said. “I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”
Also, Rahm said, he speaks from experience of limited activities that have nowhere to go.
“If the COVID quarantine has taught us anything, it’s what we have to do locked in a room all day,” he said.
Thomas was one of several players who made a move that was stopped in their lanes. He started the back nine with three birdies on four holes, then went from par 3 14th long into an obstacle and did a double bogey. Still, he’s very much in the mix.
Harold Varner III. made his mistake at the worst possible time. A bad journey on the 18th was followed by a blocked driveway over the wall and into danger. He did triple bogey, had to be content with a 68 and was one shot behind in ninth place, four shots behind.
Varner is still in good shape to be in the top 70 in the FedEx Cup, which are rising next week. More pressure is on Tom Hoge (# 108) and Keith Mitchell (# 101), who have to end up somewhere in the top 10 to keep their seasons going.
Hoge shot 67 and was tied with Lowry and Viktor Hovland (65) in sixth, three shots back. Mitchell took the triple bogey on a bad drive on the 10th. He was tied back for 11th, five.