SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Cameron Smith made a pair of putts with a 7-foot birdie to complete his 4-under 68 round and put him past Dustin Johnson heading into the third and final day of the LIV Golf Invitational-Chicago.
As easy as Johnson made it look in the first round, Saturday at Rich Harvest Farms was such a struggle that he went above par for the first time in the 14 rounds he played on the funded series. Saudi Arabia.
Johnson was lucky that Smith’s deficit was only 2 shots. He came well short of the green on the par-4 17th and had to make a par 8-foot putt, while Smith took the lead for the first time with his 7-foot birdie putt.
On their final hole at the par-5 18th, Johnson’s approach took a difficult leap onto the green. After a freefall from the stand, he slipped weakly 8 feet and missed his birdie putt. Smith was on the other side of the green, held up a 60-footer 7-footer and birdied another.
Smith was 10-under 134.
They will be joined in the lead pack on Sunday by Peter Uihlein, the former US amateur champion who had the lowest round of the windy day with a 66. That left Uihlein just 3 shots behind going into the final day.
Laurie Canter (68) and Charl Schwartzel (69), who won the first LIV Golf Invitational outside of London, were 4 strokes behind. The back 5 group included Lee Westwood, Charles Howell III and Bryson DeChambeau.
Smith won the St. Andrews Open and won $2.5 million. A win on Sunday would be worth at least $4 million.
“It was tough today,” Smith said. “I had a few breaks and DJ didn’t quite make the putts he usually does.”
Phil Mickelson looked like he could get a round under par until he made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch and shot 74 to drop 12 shots behind.
Mickelson spoke Friday about the need for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to work together. The PGA Tour has suspended players for playing in the Saudi-backed series without getting a contentious event release.
Mickelson is among seven players – along with LIV Golf – who have filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour.
“The PGA Tour for the past 20 or 30 years has had all the best players in the world. It will never be the case again. LIV Golf is here to stay, and this type of divisive talk does no one any good,” said Mickelson said. . “The best solution is for us to get together.
“I think both are necessary for the game of golf. Both are good for the game of golf. The inclusion of LIV Golf in the ecosystem of the golf world is necessary,” said Mickelson, chief recruiter at the beginning of LIV Golf. . “As soon as that happens and we all start working together, it’s going to be a really positive thing for everyone.”
In the tag team competition, Johnson’s four-man squad had a one-stroke lead over Smith’s side, with Uihlein’s big turn helping put his side – Brooks Koepka is captain – 2 strokes behind.