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Smith and Phachara have Hong Kong Open title in their sights

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

Smith had an unusually frustrating day on the Composite Course here 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 of 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 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.”
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.

Said Phachara: “I felt great, but I didn’t start very good, bogey on the first hole but I was back on my game very quick. You know, my mindset was it’s gone, that hole, just make a comeback.

“The front nine was pretty difficult. I still kept my game and my mindset, and I just tried my best because it was a difficult day today.

“My game plan right now, everything in my game is pretty good. Maybe if I can make a lot of putts tomorrow, I will have a chance.”

Campbell, like Phachara, faces arguably the biggest day of his career tomorrow as he tries to win one of Asia’s biggest golf tournaments, which this year is the penultimate event on the Asian Tour’s set of 10 International Series 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.

On tomorrow’s winning score he said: “I think obviously you got to get into the 20s, if you’re in the 20s you’re going to have a chance. I suppose it depends how the boys finish, if they finish on 16 [today] then if you get to 23 or 24, then you got to have a good chance. So yeah, a nice low one tomorrow. It was tricky out there picking the wind a bit today, so it depends if it’s sort of gusty like that again tomorrow.”

American Andy Ogletree fired a 66, to finish on 11 under, and he will be crowned The International Series Order of Merit champion tomorrow barring a shock turn of events. If he tumbles down the leaderboard then either 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.

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, out of the running.


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