With the letters A-U-S shaved into the side of his head, there is no mistaking Cameron Smith’s motivation as he takes the hopes of a nation with him into Sunday’s final round.
The 27-year-old’s flowing mullet and shaved-in patriotism captured all the attention prior to competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club, but it was his blemish-free display in round three that got tongues wagging.
Smith shot a five-under round of 66 to move up nine spots and position himself for a charge at the medal placings.
The Aussie navigated the tricky Par 4 18th that brought him unstuck the previous afternoon to enter the clubhouse at nine-under and with hope of a final day’s charge.
Smith hit a purple patch on the front nine, sinking birdies on holes five through eight to get his day off to a flyer.
Most Americans will be cheering on leader Xander Schauffele (-14) but one who will have eyes for Smith is his aptly-named Jacksonville barber, Lee Trevino.
The man who shares a name, but no relation, to the six-time major winner, is the one responsible for Smith’s golden mullet and trimmed-in three-letter acronym, the Aussie revealed.
“His dad had the last name, and he was a golfer, so he decided to run with it,” Smith said of his barber, who styles many on the PGA Tour who call Florida home.
Smith’s magic mullet will have to make up five shots on Schauffele to have any chance at gold – a tough ask considering the American’s consistency and the stacked field at the top.
Joining Smith in the hunt for gold is fan-favourite and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who played true to his standing as one of the world’s best golfers with some incredible iron play on day three.
McIlroy and compatriot Shane Lowry are both in strong positions heading into the final day, sitting at 11-under and 10-under respectively.
Great Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood produced a stunning run on the back nine featuring five birdies – four in a row – on his way to a day’s-best round of 64 and into 10-under.
Joining Schauffele at the top of the standings are local hope Hideki Matsuyama (-13), Great Britain’s Paul Casey (-12) and Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, also at 12-under.
Fellow Aussie Marc Leishman shot a one-over round of 72 to finish at even and well outside medal contention.
Empty grandstand derails Aussie golf charge
A double bogey on the 18th hole soured Cameron Smith’s incredible charge up the standings on day two of the men’s stroke play from Kasumigaseki Country Club in Tokyo.
From the tee on the day’s final hole, Smith’s ball struck an empty grandstand and cannoned across the grass and into the pond on the Par 4.
He found the green in four but two-putted his way to a double bogey, undoing much of the hard work done to put himself within reach of the leaders.
With no fans allowed in the Olympic venues, Smith might further consider himself unlucky that the unused grandstand was there at all.
Smith started the second round eight shots back from day one leader Sepp Straka of Austria, but immediately found form with birdies on the opening two holes.
The Aussie, whose flourishing mullet continues to draw interest from rivals, fans and pundits alike, was cruising at six-under for the day when play was stopped for more than two hours due to rain.
The delay proved to Smith’s detriment, who went on to bogey the 15th, his first blemish of the day, before making up the stroke on the Par 3, 16th.
He was on track to join Chile’s Mito Pereira and Irishman Shane Lowry in shooting a stellar round of 65 before disaster struck on the 18th.
American Xander Schauffele equalled the Olympic record round of 63 set by Straka on the competition’s opening day and with it moved to 11-under, one shot clear of Carlos Ortiz in the silver medal position.
Rory McIlroy shot a six-under 66 to move within striking distance of the medal placings.
Dangerous weather brought an early end to play on day two, leaving Marc Leishman stranded on the 17th hole.
It was a frustrating end to a similar day for the Aussie, who sits in a tie for 51st heading into day three.
It will mean an even earlier start for the 37-year-old on Saturday, who at this point would need a minor miracle to contend for a medal.
Round two will resume at 8.45am AEST.
Round three tee times at approx 10.30am – 12.18pm AEST.