Smith stays in mix for $20 million payday

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An errant tee shot made the task a little tougher but Cameron Smith is still well in the mix to win the US PGA Tour's FedEx Cup and its $A20 million first prize on Sunday.

Enjoying a breakout year, the Australian started the Tour Championship finale five shots behind leader Patrick Cantlay under the "starting strokes format" in use to decide the season-long FedEx Cup with three others also ahead of him.

An opening round of two-under-par 68 at East Lake in Atlanta on Thursday left Smith six shots behind leader Cantley, still with just three others - John Rahm, Harris English and Bryson DeChambeau - also ahead.

World No.23 Smith was on track to edge closer after three birdies on the front nine but copped a setback with a double bogey when he hit his tee shot into greenside water at the par 3 15th.

The 30-man tournament looks set to provide a stirring finale with Cantlay, the tour's only three-time winner this season, shooting a 67 to lead by two shots at 13 under from world No.1 and US Open champion Rahm who closed in with a 65.

English (66) and DeChambeau (69) are three shots further back.

Smith is tied with Norwegian star Viktor Hovland (66) and prolific tour winner Justin Thomas (67).

Smith wasn't particularly happy with his round.

"I was out of position a lot off the tee on the back nine and kind of had to scramble my way around," he said.

"I did a pretty good job of it, but I would have rather have had another nine like the front nine."

He wasn't fazed by the unusual format, which had him starting the tournament at five-under par but five behind Cantlay due to previous form.

"I think you've just got to treat it as you're five shots behind after one round ...You have just got to go out there and play your best golf and hopefully it all works out.

"It's a little bit strange, but after today, we all forget about it and we're ready to go the next three days."

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