Cameron Smith – file photo courtesy of Getty Images
Australians Cameron Smith and Jason Day begin tomorrow’s final round of the Travelers Championship near Hartford just one shot behind the joint 54 hole leaders, Bubba Watson and Kramer Hickok.
Another two shots back is yet another Australian, Matt Jones, and so tomorrow’s final round might well produce yet another PGA Tour title for Australia.
Day began today’s third round one ahead of the field but once again he struggled with his ongoing back issue, gingerly walking and reaching for the ball when holing out or replacing it to line up putts. That he remains so much in contention is a credit to a man who has suffered so much with injury and illness throughout his career.
Day and his wife, Ellie, have recently welcomed the birth of their fourth child, one of the reasons, along with an enforced withdrawal from the Memorial with his back issue, for him missing the recent US Open at Torrey Pines.
“I think obviously I wanted to be at the U.S. Open,” said Day. “I mean, it was nice to be at home with the birth of my son, you know, just spending quality time. Obviously I wanted to be there.
“It was killing me to watch the U.S. Open sitting at home. I said that to my wife. I’m just trying to slowly work my way back to where I need to be. Right now I feel where I’m at world ranking-wise, I just needed to go and take some time off and just try and get my game back to where it should be.
“Before this hiccup that I had at Memorial, I felt bulletproof, 100%, like I never had a back pain in my life. I was just doing exercise and unfortunately tweaked it, and hadn’t had time — in the middle of the season you don’t have time to kind of get it ready.
“I’m not 21 anymore, so it doesn’t recover like it used to. I’m really high on the FedEx, so got to try and do something to get myself into the Playoffs. Definitely got to try and do something to get myself inside the top 50 so I can get back into the majors.
“It’s a pretty critical time for me. It’s just hard to have an injury like this or not even an injury, but have a stiff back knowing that I have to go out and play. So I just got to suck it up and just do it.”
Smith, too, is reversing some recent disappointment having missed the cut at both the Memorial Tournament and the US Open last week.
Despite that, Smith expressed confidence in his game, his third round of 66 today reflecting a game that is in better shape than his recent missed cuts suggest.
“I’m pretty confident. I’m confident, probably the most confident I’ve been over the driver for a long time, which is a big thing for me.
“I feel if I can get it in the fairway the rest of the game kind of takes care of itself. So that’s really nice, to stand over the ball with driver and think you’re going to hit a good one.”
Joint leader Bubba Watson has won twelve times on the PGA Tour, three of those victories at this venue which was also the scene of his first PGA Tour title. He has also been runner-up in this event in addition to the three victories so he is clearly the man to beat tomorrow.
Hickok is a progressive player, advancing through the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and the Korn Ferry Tour, having won on both tours ahead of advancing to the PGA Tour in 2020.