Cam Smith and Eugenio Chacarra in seventh heaven at Hong Kong Open

Dubai based Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur shoot 67 and 68 respectively on Asian Tour

By Team KT

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Cam Smith, co-leader after round one of the Hong Kong Open on the Asian Tour. - Supplied photo
Cam Smith, co-leader after round one of the Hong Kong Open on the Asian Tour. - Supplied photo

Published: Fri 10 Nov 2023, 2:24 AM

Cameron Smith marked his return to the Hong Kong Open after nearly a decade in style today by shooting a first round seven under par 63 to take the lead along with rising star Eugenio Chacarra on the Composite Course at the Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling.

Korean Yubin Jang, who only turned professional last month after helping his country win the team gold at the Asian Games, and Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul came in with 64’s, while American Andy Ogletree, Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai, Taehee Lee from Korea, Chinese-Taipei’s Lee Chieh-po and Harrison Crowe, winner of last month’s Asian Amateur Championship, from Australia returned 65’s.

Australian Smith, the 30 year-old who won twice on the LIV Golf League this year to finish second on the rankings behind American Talor Gooch, played in this event in 2014, the year after he turned professional, and tied for ninth – providing a snapshot of what was to come.

‘It’s been a long time since I have been here. It’s probably been too long,’ said Smith, who played just the one season on the Asian Tour. Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities, the golf course speaks for itself and the Asian Tour is on the up, and I love it.’

Eugenio Chacarra of Spain. - AFP
Eugenio Chacarra of Spain. - AFP

Smith boarded the birdie train today, making a total of eight birdies and just the one bogey. He opened with birdies on the first two holes, before making a late run for the lead with four in a row from 14.

Spanish star Chacarra summed up just how well he is playing, saying, ‘I was in contention to win my last two LIV Golf events and I was in contention last week [Volvo China Open] and obviously I won St Andrews [the St Andrews Bay Championship on the Asian Tour in August].’

It was a real statement of intent from one of the game’s most exciting young golfers, as he went round bogey-free in his debut appearance in the Hong Kong Open, the penultimate leg of The International Series, with just the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE remaining next week.

He began on hole 11 and did not hold back making four birdies in his first five, before adding two more on the back.

Gaganjeet Bhullar of India. - AFP
Gaganjeet Bhullar of India. - AFP

Yang is another young hot shot making waves. He won on the Korean PGA Tour as an amateur this year, and triumphed at the Asian Games with team-mates and PGA Tour stars Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim as well as Woo Young Cho.

He shared the lead on seven under at one point but dropped a shot on his second from last hole.

Ogletree will wrap up The International Series Order of Merit (OOM) by making the cut this week, barring an unexpected turn of events, and take a step closer to claiming the Asian Tour OOM, with four events remaining.

‘I’m trying to win a golf tournament and I’ve always said that good golf takes care of everything and that’s what I’m trying to do this week – just trying to focus on the short term and not what’s going on outside of this week. But it is obviously a great position to be in and I’m super thankful to have the lead on The International Series Order of Merit.’

He made nine birdies but also one double and two bogeys.

Dubai Golden VISA Awardees Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur shot rounds of 67 and 68 respectively.

Gaganjeet told Khaleej Times, ‘My game was good – just hoping to get a click soon. I made two stupid bogeys – other than that all is fine.’

Kapur commented, ‘It is never easy coming back from injury. I am still not 100% - but slowly getting back in the groove. It was overcast and breezy, with the course quite soft. This course plays its toughest when it is firm and fast.’

Gooch carded a 68, defending champion Wade Ormsby from Australia and Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho shot a 70.

First Round Scores

(6,710 Yards, Par 70).

E. Chacarra (Spain) 63.

C. Smith (Aus) 63.

Y. Jang (South Korea) 64.

G. Charoenkul (Thai) 64.

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