Australia’s Smith charges to share of lead at Hong Kong Open

Oct 20, 2023; Doral, Florida, USA; Cameron Smith putts on the eighth green during the first round of the LIV Golf Miami golf tournament at Trump National Doral. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

Following a lengthy COVID break, the Hong Kong Open returned on Thursday. Cameron Smith fired off a late birdie blitz in a round of 63 to capture a share of the first-round lead.

At the venerable Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling, Australian Smith took off on the 12th hole, making five birdies in six holes to tie Spanish player Eugenio Chacarra on seven under.

The two were ahead by one stroke over South Korea’s Jang Yu-bin and Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul, who recently won gold in the golf team event at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

British Open winner Smith resumed play following a hiatus following the LIV tournament in Saudi Arabia last month, with eight birdies and one bogey on the par-five third.

“Played really solid,” the thirty-year-old with mullet hair commented.

“Gusty, it was tough out there today too.

He said, “It’s a cool track, one of my favorites,” referring to the golf club’s hybrid layout.

“Hopefully we don’t get any rain.”

Soon after sunrise, Chacarra, who had played golf for Oklahoma State University before leaving to pursue his dream of becoming a millionaire on the Saudi-backed LIV circuit, teed off and took the lead in the clubhouse with a flawless round of seven birdies.

After missing his first and fifth shots in his round of 67, American Patrick Reed, the victor of the Masters, was four strokes off the lead at three under.

Following a frustrating day on the greens but without bogeys, Irish major champion Graeme McDowell was also at three under.

After not being held since 2020, the Hong Kong Open returned to the Asian Tour program this year.

The previous champion and two-time event winner, Australian Wade Ormsby, scored an even-par 70 to trail the leaders by seven.

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