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Australia's Smith leads PGA Memorial by one, McIlroy three shots off the lead

The 28-year-old world number three from Queensland is chasing his third win of the year.

Rory McIlroy (NIR) putts on the 17th hole.
Rory McIlroy (NIR) putts on the 17th hole.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

AUSTRALIA’S CAMERON Smith fired a three-under-par 69 to take a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the PGA Tour’s Memorial tournament in Ohio on Friday.

The 28-year-old world number three from Queensland, chasing his third win of the year, carded four birdies against one bogey to move to eight under overall for the tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin.

Smith, who started the day in a six-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after a five-under-par opening round on Thursday, took sole possession of the lead after another solid round in the event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.

The Aussie reeled off four straight pars before his first birdie on the par-five fifth hole, when he left himself with a tap-in after drilling his 102-yard third shot to within three feet.

Although he gave up that shot with a bogey on the sixth, he picked up another birdie on the seventh when another short iron left him with a three-footer for birdie.

Two more birdies followed on the 11th and 12th, with the highlight a clever chip from thick rough off the green on the 12th which rolled 35 feet into the cup.

“Really happy with where my short game’s at, I feel like I’m rolling the ball really good,” Smith said afterwards.

“I’m just happy with the way I stuck in there.”

Smith’s impressive season has also included strong showings in the opening two majors of the year, finishing in a tie for third place at the Masters before a joint 13th place finish at the PGA Championship.

“I’m playing some of the best golf of my life,” the Australian said. “I think mentally I’m in a good spot. I’ve got a few things to tidy up with my longer stuff.”

Denny McCarthy and South Korea’s Lee Kyoung-hoon lead the chasing pack behind Smith, one off the pace on seven under.

McCarthy moved into contention with a three-under-par 69 while Lee, who shared the lead with Smith after the first round, posted a two-under-par 70.

Five players are two off the lead on six under, with the biggest move among them on Friday coming from Billy Horschel, who shot a bogey-free four-under-par 68.

Horschel is tied for fourth alongside Davis Riley, Cameron Young, Luke List and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas.

Rory McIlroy heads a group of four players a further shot back on five under.

McIlroy remained in the hunt with a three-under-par 69, while Ryder Cup team-mate Francesco Molinari shot a four-under-par 68.

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Keith Mitchell was also on five under, and was left ruing a costly late double-bogey on the 16th which checked his pursuit of the leaders. Mitchell finished with a three-under-par 69.

McIlroy meanwhile was left frustrated after a second round which veered between brilliance — an eagle three at the par-five fifth — before bogeys at the eighth, 11th and 14th.

“I guess it sort of happens around here,” McIlroy said. “It’s getting tricky and you’re going to make bogeys regardless of where they come.

“Overall, two solid rounds of golf, right in contention into the weekend. Happy with how everything is sort of going.”

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Shane Lowry is tied for 17th on three-under, while Seamus Power missed the cut after finishing on four-over.

You can view the leaderboard in full here.

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AFP

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