Mickelson also had a 67, one of his best rounds of the year in the LIV Golf League considering Trump National Bedminster has not yielded low scoring this week. He was one shot behind when he bogeyed the par-3 14th and failed to birdie the par-5 15th.
Smith picked up birdies on the 15th, the par-3 16th and the par-5 18th. He was at 9-under 133, four shots clear of Mickelson and Dean Burmester, who had birdies on three of his last five holes for a 68.
Smith already has one LIV Golf victory this year. Mickelson, one of the chief recruits when the Saudi-funded league got going in 2022, is still looking for his first LIV title. His last win was the 2021 PGA Championship, when he was 50 and became golf’s oldest major champion.
“It’s been a couple years, and I would love getting back into that feeling of having a chance to win and having each shot bring that pressure about,” Mickelson said.
Smith had a double bogey early in his round and did well not to drop more shots around the middle before he picked up momentum at the end.
“I probably had to lean on my short game a little bit more than I would wish, but that’s where it kind of helps having a nicer short game,” Smith said. “When things aren’t going your way and you can grind through a round and make some good pars. You never know when the driver and the irons are going to show up and you can start making birdies.”
Mickelson was in his best position to to win in LIV Golf this year. He is No. 45 on the points list, having not finished better than 15th in the 48-man league. His performance comes after gambler Billy Walters released an excerpt from his book that claimed Mickelson placed more than $1 billion in wagers over the last 30 years and wanted Walters to place a $400,000 bet on the 2012 Ryder Cup in which Mickelson played.
Mickelson said he has never bet on the Ryder Cup.