Cameron Smith has given himself a red-hot chance to make the FedEx Cup's Tour Championship finale after earning a share of third place at the opening event of the US$67-million playoffs.
Smith pulled within three shots of runaway leader Bryson DeChambeau during the final round at the Northern Trust in New Jersey, but was ultimately no match as the American romped to a four-shot win.
With his first top-five result on the US Tour since the Masters in April, Smith jumps 37 places on the FedEx Cup to No.16.
He is now a strong chance at remaining inside the top 30 who progress to the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.
"I haven't been in the mix for a couple months so it was fun to play well under the gun and it was important to do that heading into three really important events," Smith said.
It is likely the new World No.39 will only need to make the cut at the second playoffs event in Boston this week to assure himself of a Tour Championship debut, having missed out on the finale last year.
RIGHT: Adam Scott has jumped from 73rd in the FedEx Cup rankings to 40th after finishing T5 at the Northern Trust. PHOTO: Andrew Remington/Getty Images.
Advancing to the Tour Championship, where the FedEx Cup winner is crowned, guarantees starts in all four major championships next year.
"To get into the Tour Championship has been a goal all year, so I'm going to be trying my guts out over the next couple of weeks," Smith said.
Smith's fellow Queenslander Scott also made a FedEx Cup leap – 33 places to No.40 – with his second consecutive top-five result on the US Tour also taking him to 38th in the world.
Although one of golf's most prolific ball-strikers, former Masters winner Scott is perennially criticised for lacklustre putting.
But former World No.1 Scott ranked first in the field for strokes gained in putting in a sure sign reuniting with coach Brad Malone is working wonders.
"There was lots of good stuff this week; the putting is looking really good and the proximity to the hole was great," said Scott, who also finished third at the recent US PGA Championship.
"If I can keep that going in these next three events I can get myself to Atlanta."
FEDEX CUP AUSTRALIAN STANDINGS AFTER NORTHERN TRUST
Jason Day (8)
Cameron Smith (16)
Marc Leishman (24)
Adam Scott (40)
- Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press