Cam Smith wanted more, but he knew it would be greedy of him to ask for it.
Yet there he was Saturday on the 18th hole at Liberty National in Jersey City, staring at a 12-foot birdie putt that, if holed, would have given him a 59 in the third round of The Northern Trust.
Only 12 players in PGA Tour history have shot a sub-60 round, and Smith, the 28-year-old Aussie with the long, stringy blonde mullet, hoped to be the lucky 13th.
But he misread his final putt, thinking it would break right. It broke left, sliding tantalizingly past the hole and leaving him with a tap-in for a course-record 60.
“I actually thought it was going to kind of stay straight and then drop a little bit right there at the end off the bunker and … yeah, just didn’t do it,” Smith said. “I hit a pretty good putt, good speed and looking back at it I don’t know how I read it to go that way, but it is what it is.”
Smith’s 11-under day pushed him to 16-under for the tournament, tied for the lead with Jon Rahm, who posted a 67 later in the afternoon. South Africa’s Eric van Rooyen, who shot 62, is one stroke out of the lead at 15-under. Justin Thomas (67) and Tony Finau (68) are 14-under and two shots back.
Smith, Rahm and everyone else remaining in the field will have to wait until Monday to play the final round, which has been postponed from Sunday because of the impending Hurricane Henri, which is forecast to bring heavy rain and high winds to northern New Jersey.
PGA Tour official John Mutch said the storm is expected to bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to Liberty National, with winds gusting to 60 mph “if we get on the wrong side of this.’’
“For public safety, for everyone’s safety, we felt it was the right thing to do [to postpone until Monday],” Mutch said.
Mutch said he has been informed by a PGA Tour meteorologist that they should be able to complete the tournament on Monday.
If at least half the remaining field cannot complete the 72-hole tournament on Monday, then the final round would be nullified and the tournament would be reduced to 54 holes, with a winner determined by a playoff on Monday or Tuesday.
Thomas was one player who didn’t seem pleased with the decision to postpone Sunday’s round.
“Yeah, I’m not sure what that decision was,’’ he said. “Weather changes all the time and weathermen are wrong all the time. We’re going to look pretty stupid if it’s pretty nice [Sunday] and we’re all sitting in our hotel room, but it looks like the decision was already made.
“I’m going to have to figure out what to do because I’ve never had an off-day in the middle of the tournament.’’
Thomas then recalled a junior tournament he played that was postponed a day and said: “I remember I didn’t touch a club and thought I was fine and then I shot like 80 the next day, so I’m really hoping that that doesn’t happen again.’’
Finau, who said he “hit it really, really good and putted it really, really bad,’’ planned to take his putter back to his hotel room in case that’s all the practicing he’ll be able to do Sunday.
“I need to have a talk with it,’’ he said. “It needs to wake up. We’ve got 18 holes to go. We’re in the playoffs.’’
Rahm said he was informed of the Sunday postponement as he was warming up for his round. He said he told his caddie, Adam Hayes: “Let’s just play today like there’s no more golf. Let’s try to end it up on top as if it was a Sunday just in case, because you never know.’
“If I had a one-shot lead at 17-under, [I] would hope the hurricane comes and stays for two days and we don’t have to play again,’’ Rahm said.
Smith said he plans to maintain the good vibes from Saturday and he believes the added day off might exempt him from the age-old theory that it’s difficult to back up a great round with another the following day.
“I always think it’s hard to back up a really good round, so maybe the day off will help me out,” Smith said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do [Sunday]. I’ve never been in this situation. Probably just a little bit of a rest. A round like this usually takes it out of you a little bit, the adrenaline, the highs and the lows.”
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