Smail added a one-under 69 to earlier rounds of 66 and 68 to move to 7-under, and leads by three over Australian Brad Andrews (67), compatriot Steve Alker (69) and Englishman Roger Chapman (68).
With a quintet of birdies through his first eight holes, Alker had established a commanding four-stroke lead over a slow-starting Smail earlier in the day at 8-under.
Smail birdied his third hole, but a bogey at the fourth and double bogey at the fifth saw him slip to 4-under and the four-stroke deficit behind Alker.
But Smail began to steady his round with a birdie at the sixth to go to 5-under, and when Alker had bogeyed nine and 13, and double bogeyed the 12th, Smail was back in front.
Another bogey by Smail at the 11th saw him share the lead again momentarily, before he claimed it outright for the final time with an immediate birdie at 12. When he added more at the 14th and 17th he was three clear.
Alker meanwhile steadied his round towards the end, closing with five consecutive pars, but would have nonetheless been disappointed to let the field back in after being so far in front.
Andrews, who started poorly on Thursday with a 72 before bouncing back with a 67 yesterday, continued his improvement today, collecting four birdies and a single bogey.
Chapman did some rebuilding during his round, coming back from a double at the first and bogey at the third that dropped him to plus one with six birdies and one more bogey on the way to his 68.
Next best on 3-under are a group of five players, Brett Ogle (67), Euan Walters (69), David Bransdon (70), Nathan Gatehouse (70) and Scott Hend (72).
Ogle steadily and quietly climbed into contention with his solid 3under 67, carding three birdies on the front nine and then twice recovering from bogeys at 10 and 13 with birdies at the 12th and 14th holes.
Dual New Zealand Open winner Greg Turner was 5-under for the day and the tournament after 12 holes, but had to settle for a 68 as he added three bogeys over the closing holes.
Turner shares 10th place with Peter O'Malley at 2-under. After grabbing a share of second place overnight, O'Malley stumbled back down the board today with a 73 that included a birdie and four bogeys.
Leigh McKechnie, defending champion and tournament favorite Michael Campbell, and American Mark Wilson shared round of the day honors after signing for 4-under 66's, and suddenly loom as strong contenders after the tricky afternoon conditions held back those threatening to get away.
That leaves them at 1-under, and tied for 12th alongside James McLean (67), local amateur Eddie Lee (69), Paul Sheehan (72), Marcus Norgren (72) and Bob Charles (73).
Campbell had a rocky start, birdying one and three but on each occasion making bogeys at the very next holes, including an air swing at the second when he found himself in trouble under the trees lining the fairway.
But the world No. 16 got some momentum with a birdie at six and an eagle at 12. Not even another bogey at the 13th could slow him down for long as he also birdied 15 and 17. Campbell says he now gives himself a realistic hope of retaining his title.
'Now that I'm in closer than I was at the start of this morning I feel that I have got a chance of winning now,' Campbell said. 'The way the course is playing right now, four-under's quite a good score. It's just so hard to keep it on the fairway now.'
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Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change
Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.
David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.
“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.
Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.
“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.
Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.
Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:
1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.
2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.
While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.
Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open
JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.
Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.
''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''
Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 5: Dec. 12
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18