Khongwatmai takes 1-shot lead in Hong Kong

Khongwatmai takes 1-shot lead in Hong Kong

HONG KONG — Asian Tour regular Phachara Khongwatmai upstaged early starters Cameron Smith and Bae Sang-Moon with a sizzling 10-birdie 63 to take a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Hong Kong Open on Friday.

The 22-year-old Thai bagged four birdies on the way out and six on the back nine which, mixed with three bogeys, sent him top of the leaderboard on 12-under-par for the tournament.

Australian Smith backed up his opening 63 with a four-under 66 to share second place with South Korean Bae (63), who won twice on the U.S. PGA Tour before two years of national military service interrupted his career.

“Early alarm this morning, the body quite wasn’t working,” said Smith, who won his first major at last year’s British Open.

“It was a bit scrappy to be honest, it was good to get out of there three or four under par. Hopefully I can keep improving.”

Bae made a brilliant start on the composite Fanling course, birdying the second hole before coming up with an eagle at the par-five third.

“It was really good,” said the 37-year-old, who pulled out this week’s PGA Tour event in Bermuda to return to Asia and play.

“I’m trying to find my game, the putting’s good, the iron shot’s good so I’m really looking forward to playing this weekend.”

Former major champions Graeme McDowell and Patrick Reed, who both carded 65s, remained in touch at four and five shots off the pace respectively.

Australian Wade Ormsby, who won the tournament for the second time when it was last played nearly four years ago before a COVID-enforced hiatus, missed the cut after shooting a one-over 71.

Read more