Crowds flock as Smith finds his driver

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Cameron Smith has lapped up the attention in his Australian return and, in an ominous warning to rivals, says he’s rediscovered his touch off the tee.

The world No.3 and Open Championship winner is one behind leader Jason Scrivener entering Saturday’s Australian PGA Championship third round in Brisbane.

Seven others, including Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura who joined Smith and Scrivener in Saturday’s final group followed by thousands of fans at the riverside course, are lurking within two shots further back.

Entering the weekend on the one-over par cut line, US PGA Tour winner and President’s Cup representative Cameron Davis (65) eagled his second hole and climbed to four under.

Min Woo Lee began with two birdies to improve to six-under through four holes while Scott Strange was Saturday’s other early mover, shooting 66 to finish four under after starting in the day’s first group.

Two bogeys on Friday at the tricky Royal Queensland Golf Club left Smith hunting South African-born, Perth raised Scrivener, who is searching for his first victory since 2017.

“I only had a couple of bogeys, both on par threes, which isn’t really a good sign most of the time,” Smith said.

“But I felt as though I hit my driver as best as I’ve hit it for a very long time, so it was nice to do that.

“It gives me a little bit of confidence going into the weekend.”

In 2018 he beat a PGA field that included Masters champions Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia at Gold Coast’s Royal Pines, then defended his title a year later in a Sunday shootout with Marc Leishman.

Smith, back after a three-year absence, has four wins just this year and has rewarded the thousands who have lined the fairways so far to position himself for another.

“Obviously a lot’s changed in three years, that really wasn’t the case,” Smith said of his hero’s welcome.

“It seemed like they were three or four deep down either side of the fairway all day.

“My old boy was whinging actually at me yesterday saying that he didn’t get to watch me play golf (because he couldn’t see through the masses).”

The holder of the Claret Jug reckons it was his first lifting of the Joe Kirkwood Cup in 2018 that will steel him this weekend.

“That first one down the (Gold) Coast definitely helped a lot for my confidence, knowing that I could kind of get it done on Sunday,” he said.

“It was something that I really hadn’t done until then, so that was kind of nice to do and went on to have a really good 2018 and just played some really solid golf.

“It was massive, massive confidence booster for everything.”

– AAP

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