Tiger Woods at Royal Melbourne promoting the 2019 Presidents Cup. Photo: Michael Klein
Tiger Woods at Royal Melbourne promoting the 2019 Presidents Cup. Photo: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

Tiger Woods has given the strongest indication yet that he will tee it up as a rare playing captain in the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

Woods (United States) and fellow golf great Ernie Els (Internationals) were earlier this year announced as captains for the biennial event, to be held in Melbourne next December.

But 14-time major winner Woods has declared he will accept the role of playing skipper – which has happened just once – if he is to earn automatic qualification for what will be a star-studded American team.

“If I am part of the top eight, yes, I will play,” Woods told AAP in Melbourne.

US team standings are calculated from FedEx Cup points accrued on the PGA Tour during a weighted two-year period leading up to the Tour Championship.

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Cameron Smith has made his move in the shadows to burst clear of sparring partner Marc Leishman and get within reach of back-to-back Australian PGA Championships.

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Smith (14 under) spread five birdies across a mistake-free round of 67 in another controlled showing at Royal Pines on Saturday, while Leishman (69) did his best to keep up and finished three shots back in outright second.

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Contending youngsters Dimi Papadatos and Jake McLeod (both five under) faltered on a testing third day as they jostled for order of merit honours, leaving Matt Millar (seven under) tied with former champion Harold Varner III in third.

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Smith birdied the second hole and, despite settling for par when an eagle beckoned on the short par-4 eighth, birdied the next to remain an arm’s distance from his Australian World Cup teammate and playing partner Leishman.

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Leishman birdied the 10th but bogeyed the 11th and both men nailed their approaches to the 12th and left with birdies.

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But when Smith made a long birdie putt on the 13th, he had a three-shot lead, all while McLeod slowly lost pace with the lead group to drop four shots on his final eight holes.

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Braden Becker moved into calculations after carding 67 and returning to the clubhouse at six under, while Matthew Millar (seven under) did the same.

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Canberra product Millar’s five-under round earned him the early clubhouse lead and a Sunday pairing with Varner, whose mixed bag earned him a one-under round. Matt Jager and Ben Eccles are six under.

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– AAP

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