Cam Smith holds four-shot lead at LIV Golf Bedminster

Cam Smith posted a 4-under par 68 in round 2 at LIV Golf Bedminster and holds a four-shot lead over Phil Mickelson and Dean Bermester heading into Sundays final round at Trump National GC Bedminster.

BEDMINSTER, New Jersey – For a short while in the middle of the second round of LIV Golf Bedminster, the left-handed complement of aging veterans Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson briefly tied for the lead. But that unlikely story line gave way to something far more predictable.

Australian Cam Smith, who was the first-round leader with a 5-under par 66, briefly opened the door for the rest of the field with a drive into the water at No. 3 that led to a double bogey. But Smith is the second-leading money winner on the LIV Golf Tour, has a magical short game and his middle name could be “trouble shot.” His wizardry was on display the rest of the second round as he recorded seven birdies against only one more bogey to finish with a 67 to reach 9-under par 133 and expand his lead to four strokes heading to Sunday’s final round.

In Smith’s view, he struggled off the tee on the back nine, but that just gave him an opportunity to show off during a 4-under 32 on the back nine. “I was good with the irons, I putted well, I had a few good sand saves and I managed to make a few [putts] coming in,” Smith said.

Phil Mickelson was all business posting rounds of 70-67 (5-under) trialing leader Cam Smith by four.

Asked if there is something in particular he enjoys about getting out of trouble, Smith smiled and said, “It means I hit a terrible shot to get there. But I do enjoy it. I love playing difficult shots. You definitely have to be creative.”

Smith will be paired with Mickelson and Dean Burmester, who are tied for second at 5-under, on the first hole for the 1:15 p.m. shotgun start. LIV Golf advertises that it’s events are louder, and you can believe there will be tremendous support for the 53-year-old Mickelson, who was among the first to defect from the PGA Tour, where he won 45 times, including six major championships. He is the people’s choice even though he hasn’t won since the 2021 PGA Championship and ranks a lowly 40th on the LIV money list.

Mickelson declined to come to the media interview area following his second-round 67 to avoid questions about a forthcoming book by famous Las Vegas professional gambler Billy Walters, who alleges he had a five-year friendship with Mickelson during which he placed around $1 billion worth of bets for the golfer, who supposedly lost $100,000 during that stretch. Walters claims Mickelson asked him to place a $400,000 bet on the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team, and Walters refused because he compared it to disgrace baseball star Pete Rose being caught betting on himself.

Patrick Reed, who has a history of strong LIV Golf League Sunday finishes, stands at 4-under par, five shots back of Cam Smith.

Recently, Mickelson issued a statement admitting he is in therapy for a gambling problem but saying he never bet on the Ryder Cup. However Mickelson did do a post-round interview with LIV Golf’s television outlet in which he said he has been working hard to overcome his season-long slump.

“It’s the little shots that I used to not throw away around the greens,” Mickelson said. “I’m starting to save some shots to keep the round going. I’m starting to drive the ball quite a bit straighter and in play. I’ve hit a lot of good iron shots and have had a lot of opportunities to make some putts and birdies. The game is starting to feel easy again.”

There was a point early on the back nine when Mickelson and Smith were dicing for the lead and trading birdies. They were tied at 6-under after Smith bogeyed the par-3 14th, but Mickelson, who was in the group immediately behind Smith, did the same thing to fall out of the lead. Smith, who said he enjoyed the pressure applied by Mickelson, then pulled away with birdies on three of his final four holes.

Trump National GC Bedminster, the designated site of the 2020 PGA Championship until PGA changed it, is showing its teeth playing at 7,524 yards, par 71.

Although several players suggested no one can afford to get comfortable on a course as difficult as the Bedminster layout, Smith admitted his four-stroke cushion is a nice feeling. “I wouldn’t say it’s close to being in the bag yet,” Smith said. “There’s a couple of tee shots where it gets pretty narrow, and if the driver gets whirly, you’re hitting three off the tee. But I’m about as comfortable as I can be at a course like this.”

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