‘It’s devastating’: Smith vaults into mix at Sony Open with eye on bushfires at home

Nick Menta

With four birdies in his last five holes Saturday, Cameron Smith raised an additional $2,000 for Australian bushfire relief efforts and worked his way into contention at the Sony Open.

Fresh off a third-round 66, Smith at 9 under par will enter Sunday at Waialae in solo second, three off the pace set by 54-hole leader Brendan Steele.

It was a torrid close for the 26-year-old Aussie, who will look to win his first individual PGA Tour title on Sunday, after taking the 2017 Zurich Classic with partner Jonas Blixt.

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Although he’s won just once in the U.S., Smith is a two-time winner of the Australian PGA Championship, going back to back in 2017 and 2018.

Alongside Marc Leishman and others, Smith is donating $500 for every birdie and $1,000 for every eagle he makes at the Sony to relief efforts back home, where fires continue to decimate the Australia’s ecosystem, killing at least 27 people and by one estimate as many as one billion animals. Smith was also a member of last month’s International Presidents Cup team, which announced on Saturday that it will be donating $125,000 from its own charitable fund to aid in the cause.

International Presidents Cup team donating $125K to bushfire relief efforts

Smith, who hails from Brisbane, flew to Hawaii straight from Australia via Sydney on Sunday.

“Where I was in Brisbane, it's probably less affected than the areas down south, like New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia; they're all not doing too good,” he said Friday. “It's pretty tragic to see. I flew into Sydney to come here, and we probably couldn't see – usually from Sydney airport you can see downtown, the skyline, Sydney skyline. You couldn't see that. The smoke was pretty bad.”

And while Brisbane has been less impacted, Smith does have an uncle who owned property outside New South Wales and who now has “absolutely nothing left.”

“We’re pretty close-knit family, so it's hit everyone a bit hard,” he continued. “It’s devastating really. He's probably one the more fortunate ones out of the lot really. Some people have lost their way of work and everything, so it's pretty bad.”

Through 54 holes, Smith has carded 17 birdies, for $8,500 in donations thus far. A half-dozen more birdies on Sunday would add to the total and potentially hand him his first (solo) PGA Tour victory.

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