Smith enjoys LIV Golf lead in Chicago

·3-min read

Cameron Smith is within sight of his maiden LIV Golf title and another monster pay day after opening up a two-shot lead entering the final round in Chicago.

Australia's world No.3 made a pair of seven-foot birdie putts to finish off his second-round four-under-par 68 to overtake American Dustin Johnson heading into the third and final day.

Johnson shot over par for the first time in the 14 rounds he has played in the Saudi-funded series, carding a 73 on Saturday at Rich Harvest Farms.

Johnson was lucky the deficit to Smith was only two shots. He came up well short of the green on the par-4 17th and had to make an eight-foot par putt, while Smith took the lead for the first time with his first seven-footer.

On their final hole at the par-5 18th, Johnson's approach took a hard hop over the green. After a free drop from the grandstand, he chipped weakly to eight feet and missed his birdie putt.

Smith was on the other side of the green, lagged a 60-footer to seven feet and again holed that for birdie.

"It was tricky out there today," Smith said.

"I got a couple of breaks and DJ didn't quite make the putts he usually does."

However he does it, Smith continues raking in the big bucks on the controversial breakaway circuit.

Barely a fortnight after claiming $US2.5 million ($A3.5m) for winning the 150th British Open at St Andrews, Smith joined LIV Golf for a reported $US100 million ($A143.5m) up-front fee.

Smith pocketed $US1.01 million ($A1.44m) for finishing fourth at the previous LIV event in Boston, while a victory in Chicago would be worth at least $US4 million ($A6m).

Smith is 10 under and will be joined in the lead group on Sunday by Johnson and Peter Uihlein, the former US Amateur champion who had the low round of the breezy day with a 66. That left Uihlein only three shots behind going into the last day.

England's Laurie Canter (68) and South African Charl Schwartzel (69), who won the first LIV Golf Invitational outside London, were four shots behind. The group five back included Lee Westwood, Charles Howell III and Bryson DeChambeau.

Phil Mickelson, who spoke on Friday about the need for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to work together, made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch and shot 74 to fall 12 shots behind.

Mickelson is among seven players -- along with LIV Golf -- to have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour who have suspended players for participating in the Saudi-backed series.

"The PGA Tour for the last 20 or 30 years have had all the best players in the world. That will never be the case again. LIV Golf is here to stay, and this type of divisive talk is doing nobody good," Mickelson said.

"The best solution is for us to come together ... Both are good for the game of golf ... As soon as that happens and we all start working together, that's going to be a really positive thing for everyone."

In the team competition, Johnson's four-man squad had a one-shot lead over Smith's team.