Smith ahead, but Campbell chasing at Am
BY Anthony Powter | Australian Mens Amateur Tour | 2011 Australian Amateur Championship | Round Three | 19 Mar 2011
Cameron Smith has enjoyed the lead at the Australian Amateur Stroke championship in Melbourne since Thursday’s opening round but close on his heels is a determined Ben Campbell. Both Campbell and Smith are chasing their first main amateur title in Australia with Smith winning virtually every junior event there is while Campbell this season has either lead or being in contention in all our main amateur events.
Smith has fired rounds of 66-71-70 to be at 9-under-par, three ahead of Campbell after the Kiwi carded rounds of 71-69-70 to be at 6-under-par along with England’s David Coupland.
Tim Hart and Tao Huang are currently in a tie for 4th position at 4-under-par with Luke Humphries having another solid tournament to be at 3-under-par and in outright 6th position.
This season Smith has been impressive with solid performances in main amateur events which include a runner-up finish at the Lake Macquarie Amateur, and top-15 finishes at the Queensland PGA Championship and Riversdale Cup. Throw in there wins at the Victoria Junior Masters, Norman Junior Masters and the Gary Player Classic and you start to appreciate the enormity of Smith’s talents.
Leading into the final round of a main amateur Australian event will be new territory for Smith, a product more reflective how this is the year Smith is making his transition from the junior ranks into the main stream events. Smith certainly has the game to take this Australian Amateur Stroke title wire to wire yet there will be challenges from the like of Campbell, Coupland and Hart.
“I’ll be keeping it simple out there tomorrow,” says Smith.
“My driving has been consistent and you have to play from the fairways at Victoria to have and chance of scoring well. I could do with a few more putts dropping during tomorrow’s final round and much will depend on how well I can putt from 6 feet in.”
Ranked 48th in the world, Smith has made his way into the top-5 ranked Australia’s main amateurs in a relatively short period to be behind the injured Ryan McCarthy (22nd), Matt Stieger (32nd) and US based Tarquin MacManus. Add into the mix the fact he’s yet to fully test his game internationally in the UK or US, Smith’s world ranking is a product of his consistency in Australasia, which includes a 3rd place finish at the 2010 China Amateur Open and a 6th at the 2009 Junior World Cup in Japan.
“I’ve being working hard with my game leading into this Australian Amateur,” says Smith.
“After Riversdale I worked with my coach on my putting and that’s carried over into the run that I’ve had this week at the Australian Amateur. I’m feeling confident and have plenty of energy left to seriously contest this event.”
New Zealander, Ben Campbell, is a player accustomed to playing the final round in the final day of a main amateur tournament and enters this Australian Amateur Championship with an impeccable record of consistency with his worst result in Australia a 6th placed finish from six starts.
Campbell remains one of my favourites at these championships provided he can deal with that final day issue of getting the job done and dusted. During his last four starts in Australia at the Master of the Amateurs, the Lake Macquarie Amateur, Tasmanian Open and the Riversdale Cup, Campbell either lead into the final day or at some stage had a share of the lead for an opportunity to claim his first main amateur Australian Title.
“I must be doing something right to be in these situations,” says the world number 21.
“I’m not thinking too much about any lost opportunities with the past. Sure it’s being a little frustrating, but I’ll keep doing my processes, get into position and just see what comes about.”
The question as to whether Campbell can win has already been determined with his win in the 2010 Tauranga Open in New Zealand, firing a closing 66 to finish at 19-under-par and in the process becoming the first amateur in more than two years to win a Charles Tour event.
The All-Black follower from Masterton, a town 100 kilometres north-east of Wellington, is easily one of the better golfers in the Australasian region. During the 2010 season in Europe, Campbell made the cut in every event he entered. His best finish was a tied 7th at the Scottish Open Amateur in Glasgow. He made the all important match-play segment of the British Amateur and had a solid result at the St Andrews Links Trophy with a top-20 finish at the home of golf in a field that was littered with Europe’s best amateurs.
At the completion of tomorrow’s final round the leading scorer will be named the Australian Amateur Stroke Champion, a title Matt Jager won last year with a five stroke margin over Luke Bleumink and Jin Jeong at Lake Karrinyup Country Club in Perth.
The leading 32 players then qualify for elimination match play starting Monday at Victoria Golf Club to determine the Australian Amateur Champion at Wednesday’s final.
“It’s a long and challenging tournament,” says Smith.
“If you take out the Stroke Championship, that’s as a real confidence booster to move into the match play as the number 1 seed. That’s my goal and it’s what I be aiming for tomorrow.”
Much is at stake for tomorrow’s final round. We also see the likes of Matt Stieger, Brady Watt and Brett Drewitt needing to produce a low final round to make sure they are around on Monday. All are currently over the top-32 mark and in risk of having their Australian Amateur champaign shortened.