New Zealand’s Ben Campbell drained a 15-foot birdie putt on the famous par-four 18th hole to win the US$2 million Hong Kong Open today after gripping battle over the closing stages with playing-partners Cam Smith from Australia and Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai.
Campbell, who had not led at any stage of the tournament until that brilliant last putt, shot a four-under-par 66 to finish on 19-under-par and beat Smith by one and Phacahara by two.
Smith returned a 68 and Phachara a 69 here at the Hong Kong Golf Club, while Canadian Richard T. Lee came in with a 64 to tie for third.
All three players, playing in the final pairing, were tied playing the last with the chance of a sudden-death play-off very high.
However, Campbell won it in normal time after Smith had to lay up with his second shot and nearly holed his third before making a four, while Phachara missed his birdie putt from 25-feet and three putted after missing a three footer.
For Campbell, who also birdied the 17th, this is his maiden win on the Asian Tour, with his only other win in the professional game coming at the New Zealand PGA Championship in 2018.
“It’s good to finally get the monkey off the back and yeah, sort of just battling away all day,” said Campbell.
“Sort of didn’t get off to the greatest of starts and swing wasn’t feeling that great. Sort of went back to a few close losses and wrote a few notes down in my yardage book last night, and really used them on those last four or five holes.
“It was getting a bit tight in the swing and just from those past experiences managed to, I think, you know, put a couple of nice swings coming down the stretch which really helped.”
The victory is also just reward for a player who has struggled with injuries and missed six months last year due to a back issue which required surgery.
He said: “Even probably four months ago I was sort of battling with the body. I’ve had quite a few operations, and bulged discs in the back and things like that, so had to change the swing quite a bit especially in the last two or three years. So yeah, great to put that behind me now and the monkey’s off the back which is good.”
The most recent Kiwi winner of the Hong Kong Open was Frank Nobilo in 1997, while the only other was Walter Godfrey 1972.
Smith and Phachara had started the day sharing the lead with Campbell one back.
Phachara looked to be heading for the win when he birdied three in a row from 11 and led by one from Smith and two from Campbell with three to go.
However, drama unfolded on the par-four 16th when he hooked his tee into the trees. He chose to try and hit his ball back into play from a treacherous lie but failed to get it out before just being able to advance his ball to the edge of the fairway with the next. He ended up making a costly double. He also birdied the next hole before his disappointing finish on 18.
“Today my putting was not so good like the last three days, but I played well since the beginning until the 16th hole,” said Phachara.
“I was in a very difficult situation at that moment that I couldn’t do anything. Also, there were broken trees which was an obstacle so I couldn’t step backwards to drop the ball. I had to keep trying to hit it. However, I’m satisfied with my overall performance that I can make under-par for today.
“Playing with world class players like Cameron was an honour, and I did well until the last. However, it’s just not my time yet.”
Smith struggled with his driver and long irons over the weekend and was disappointed not to win for the first time in Asia.
“Pretty poor over the weekend I guess but I hung in there so lots of positives,” said the Australian
“Definitely wasn’t the nicest golf to be played over last couple of days, still lots to work on.”
American Andy Ogletree was the other big winner today after he was confirmed as the winner of The International Series Order of Merit, which hands him a ‘golden ticket’ onto next year’s multi-million dollar LIV Golf League.
He finished in joint 15th following a 69.
“At the moment it’s hard enough to think about the way I played today but I am so excited to win the Order of Merit,” said the American.
“It’s been a lot of hard work this year and a lot of great golf has gone into this and I just want to thank everyone that’s gotten me to this point. The Asian Tour for all that they’ve done and my team back home for allowing me to play the way I’ve played this year. I couldn’t be more excited, and I can’t wait to play LIV next year.”
Yubin Jang, the 21-year-old who turned professional last month after helping Korea win gold in the team event at the Asian Games, stormed through earlier in the day with a 63, spoiled only by a bogey on the last, to end in fifth place on 16 under.
The Asian Tour heads to the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE next week. The US$1.5 million event will be played at Royale Jakarta Golf Club and is the final International Series event of the season, and the third from last tournament on the Asian Tour schedule.