Aussie golfer Smith in Olympic medal mix

Australia's Cameron Smith has fired a 66 in round three of the Olympic golf tournament in Tokyo.
Australia's Cameron Smith has fired a 66 in round three of the Olympic golf tournament in Tokyo.

Cameron Smith is back in the medal mix after the cream rose to the top during the third round of the men's Olympic golf championship in Tokyo.

Unflappable as ever, Smith rebounded brilliantly from his disastrous finish to round two to carve out a bogey-free five-under-par 66 on Saturday to climb to the cusp of the top 10 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

At nine under, the Australian No.1 is five shots behind American Xander Schauffele, who birdied the last hole to take sole possession of the lead with a penultimate round of 66.

Setting the scene for a magical final round, Japan's big home hope in 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is Schauffele's closest pursuer just one stroke back after a 67.

English star Paul Casey (66) and Mexican Carlos Ortiz (69) share third spot, one stroke further behind, leaving Smith, critically, only three shots out of a medal position.

After taking a double bogey on the last hole on Friday, when his ball cruelly ricocheted sideways off a grandstand and into the water, Smith put the calamity to the back of his mind to make his big move on so-called "moving day".

After four straight scrambling pars, he began his run with a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth to seventh holes, dropped a bomb from the fringe of the green for another on 11, then picked up one more shot on 13.

Smith also made a series of clutch putts to keep the momentum going as several of golf's superstars surged up the leaderboard.

As well as Schauffele, widely considered the best player yet to win a major, Matsuyama and Casey, former world No.1 Rory McIlroy, fellow Irish former Open champion Shane Lowry and British ace Tommy Fleetwood also charged into gold-medal contention.

McIlroy had a 67 to move into a tie for fifth at 11 under, while Fleetwood's round of the day, a sizzling 64, vaulted him to 10 under and in a share of ninth with Lowry (69).

Smith believes he's close enough, if good enough to medal - if not win - with another low round on Sunday.

"It's going to take a good one but, if I can get out to a start like I did on those first couple of days, make a few birdies on the first four or five holes, I think I'll be looking at it a bit differently," he said.

"I just need to go out there and hit it like I did for the last 14 holes today, make a few more putts and we'll be sweet."

Fellow Australian Marc Leishman is tied for 49th, 14 shots off the pace and out of contention, at even par following a third-round 72.

Australian Associated Press