Harold Varner 111 – joint leader by two – photo Paul Lakatos 

Cameron Smith is tied for 3rd place and just two behind the lead held by Harold Varner 111 of the US and Adri Arnuas of Spain at the completion of 36 holes of the Asian Tour’s lucrative PIF Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, North of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Varner and Arnaus completed identical scores in the opening two rounds of 64 and 66 to lead the star studded field in the US$5 million event, the largest purse ever for a stand alone Asian Tour event.

The long hitting Arnuas, has yet to win a European Tour event but has on four occasions been runner-up and did win the Challenge Tour Grand Final in this region in 2018.

PGA Tour player, Varner, has yet to win on that stage, but was the 2016 Australian PGA Champion, the leading pair negotiating the blustery conditions best against a field which includes Dustin Johnson, Xander Scaufelle, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson to name just some of the elite field assembled for the first Asian Tour event of the 2022 season.

At the start of the day the event lost one of it’s heavyweight attractions when American Bryson DeChambeau withdrew from the event with a left hand and left hip injury.

Smith completed a second consecutive round of 66 to be tied for third with American Mathew Wolff and appeared to relish the windy conditions.

“I like it windy,” said the Australian, who played on the Asian Tour in 2014, before joining the PGA Tour the following year.

“I grew up in the wind. Being from Australia, it’s something you kind of have to get used to pretty quick. Yeah, you’ve just got to strike the ball well. You’ve just got to hit it out of the middle and judge your wind.”

Of the other Australasians in the field, Wade Ormsby has also made a good start to be tied for 9th and five from the lead, Brad Kennedy and Lucas Herbert are tied for 31st, Andrew Dodt 36th, promising rookie Louis Dobbelaar 45th, and Marc Leishman 60th along with New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier.

Scott Hend, Ryan Ruffels, Jed Morgan, Travis Smyth and Ben Eccles all missed out on advancing to the weekend.