Smith and Blixt take four-shot lead in New Orleans

(Reuters) - The team of Australian Cameron Smith and Swede Jonas Blixt survived strong and gusty winds to open up a four-stroke lead after the third round at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Saturday.

Smith and Blixt combined for a stellar four-under-par 68 in the demanding foursomes (alternate shot) format.

Avoiding any bogeys, and the healthy population of alligators that live on the premises, they posted a 19-under 197 total at TPC Louisiana, with two teams -- Charlie Hoffman/Nick Watney (69) and Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown (67) equal second on 15 under with one round left.

Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer had some putting problems, though they were not the only ones, to fall five strokes off the pace.

Though Smith and Blixt come from opposite sides of the globe, they are both now based in north Florida and were brought together by the Swede’s New Zealand caddie.

“I have a team mate I can trust. I know he’s going to get up-and-down if I miss it,” Blixt said after watching his partner roll in a 20-foot birdie at the final hole.

“It’s good to have a good mate by my side,” said Smith, returning the compliment.

Blixt is a two-time PGA Tour winner, while Smith, 23, is a former Australian Amateur champion who last November lost a playoff to Spieth at the Australian Open.

Spieth, perhaps the best putter in the world, was tormented by the gusting winds which contributed to him and Palmer missing several short ones.

“It’s very difficult out here with these grainy greens when you get the wind going one way and the hill and the grain the other,” the two-times major champion explained.

“If the wind gusts... even on a six-footer, you’re just trying to figure out where to hit it.

“You just have no idea what that putt’s going to do. It’s really a guessing game. I ran a few putts way too hard, almost trying to force them in, left my partner in a few tough spots.”

The final round will use the four-ball (best ball) format, which generally yields low scores because players can be aggressive.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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