Cameron Smith shook off two early bogeys to card a nine-under-par 64 on Friday and push his lead at the Tournament of Champions to three strokes over top-ranked Jon Rahm and Daniel Berger.
Smith’s 17-under-par total of 129 on the par-73 Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii, matched the tournament’s 36-hole record set by Ernie Els in 2003.
Spain’s Rahm carded a second straight bogey-free 66 for 132 and shared second on 14 under with Berger, who also posted a bogey-free 66.
Smith, a three-time winner on the US tour, started the day with a one-shot lead, but was in trouble early with bogeys at the first and second.
He rolled in a long eagle putt from off the green at the par-five 5th to kick his round into high gear. He added nine birdies, pulling away for good with birdies at the final four holes.
“I just hit a few poor shots in a row – a silly three-putt on the second,” he said of his slow start. “Kind of had to hit the reset button and start over.”
Smith said his iron game could have been better, but on the greens he was on fire.
“I just felt really good with the putter today,” the 28-year-old said. “I felt as though I was seeing all the putts go in. It came pretty easy for me today.”
Smith had a one-shot lead when he arrived at 16, where he hit a “dodgy drive” into the left rough.
His second shot caught the left slope of the green and rolled to within seven feet and he made that for birdie.
At the par-five 18th his second shot found the front of the green but left him 57 feet and he two-putted, capping his day with a three-footer for birdie.
He’ll be joined in Saturday’s final round by Rahm, who said “pretty much everything” went well in a round that featured seven birdies.
“It was really good tee to green,” Rahm said. “If there’s anything to put an asterisk on it’s maybe putting.
“I feel like the greens were a little bit slower today and I just felt like I left a lot of putts out there on line that with the right speed might have had a chance of going in.”
After back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, Rahm left a birdie putt short at 16. At 18 he gave it a good run on the green, his 59-foot eagle putt going slightly wide to leave him a tap-in birdie.
“I can also say my lag putting today was excellent,” Rahm said. “I had a couple of long putts out there on six, 15 with slopes in the way, that one on 18 as well, where you can easily hit it to a distance where you can be fighting for the two-putt and I hit them all to tap-in.
“So, pluses and minuses, but it’s still really, really good golf.”
Berger had five birdies and an eagle at the par-five 15th for his share of second.
FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay had six birdies in his six under 67 to lie in fourth place on 133 in the elite event for last season’s tournament winners.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama had an eagle and seven birdies with one bogey in his eight under 65 and was tied on 134 with South Korean Im Sung-Jae, who posted his second straight 67.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
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