Smith and Phachara have $2m Hong Kong Open title in their sights

Dubai-based Gaganjeet Bhullar in tied 2nd with a round to go in the Asian Tour event

By Team KT

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Cam Smith (right) co-leader with Phachara Khongwatmai (left) in the Hong Kong Open with one round to play on the Asian Tour. - Supplied photo
Cam Smith (right) co-leader with Phachara Khongwatmai (left) in the Hong Kong Open with one round to play on the Asian Tour. - Supplied photo

Published: Sat 11 Nov 2023, 3:09 PM

Australian Cam Smith set himself up to win his first title in Asia after taking a share of the third-round lead on Saturday at the $2 million Hong Kong Open along with Phachara Khongwatmai from Thailand.

Smith had an unusually frustrating day on the Composite Course at the holy grail of golf in the SAR, the Hong Kong Golf Club, but reached 16 under for the tournament after shooting a five under par 65.

His playing-partner and overnight leader Phachara, chasing his second win on the Asian Tour, fired a 66.

New Zealand’s Ben Campbell returned a 65 and is one stroke back, a shot ahead Chinese-Taipei’s Max Lee Chieh-po, who came in with a 66.

Smith, who has won twice on the LIV Golf League this year, the most recent being in Bedminster in August, had an erratic day off the tee. The worst of those shots came on the 16th where he hooked his tee shot into the trees, from where he was able to get his ball back into play and make a bogey.

“Hit a really crappy shot off the tee [on 16],” said the 30 year-old, playing in the event for only the second time, the first being nine years ago when he tied ninth.

“Didn’t feel comfortable with the long stuff all day today. So little bit of work to do overnight I think, and get it back to where it should be, and it will be fine tomorrow.”

The slip up on 16 was his only dropped shot of the day, while his silky-smooth putting stroke saved the day for him with six birdies.

“I must need to tighten up the driver and the stuff off the tee. I didn’t hit as many fairways today which led to more missed greens.

“It was a bit of a grind out there today. Hopefully it can be stress free tomorrow. I found parts of the course I don’t want to see ever again,” Smith added.

Phachara will have another excellent opportunity to add a second Asian Tour title to his resume tomorrow.

At the end of 2021 the Thai star won the Laguna Phuket Championship for his maiden win on the Asian Tour and despite numerous opportunities a second win has remained elusive.

A dropped shot on the first did little to deter him as he rallied with five birdies later, including three on the back nine to keep the pressure on his Australian opponent.

Campbell, like Phachara, faces arguably the biggest day of his career tomorrow as he tries to win one of Asia’s biggest golf tournaments.

He has been enjoying a strong season, including a joint runner-up placing in the New Zealand Open in March, on his home course at Millbrook Resort.

American Andy Ogletree fired a 66, to finish on 11 under, and will be crowned The International Series Order of Merit champion tomorrow barring a shock turn of events.

If he tumbles down the leaderboard then Spaniard David Puig or Zimbabwe’s Kieran Vincent, second and third on the Merit list, could potentially catch him by winning this week and the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE next week – the final International Series event of the season.

Dubai Golden VISA Awardee (ind) Gaganjeet Bhullar is tied 22nd after rounds of 67, 66 and 68.

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He told Khaleej Times: “My round today was good. I only missed one fairway. I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities – which is the secret to good scoring around this course – but I did not convert enough of them.”

Puig has an outside chance as he also carded a 66 and is 10 under while Vincent had a poor day shooting 74 and sitting at two under is out of the running.

Third Round Leaders

(6,710, Par 70).

C. Smith (Aus) 63. 66. 65. 194.

P. Khongwatmai (Thai) 65. 63. 66. 194.

B. Campbell (NZ) 66. 64. 65. 195.

L. Chieh-po (Chinese Taipei) 65. 65. 66. 196.


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