Ben Campbell shares lead in Japan – photo Japan Tour
It may or may or turn out that way, but May 15th is shaping as a significant day in New Zealand golf.
In Japan, Ben Campbell has a share of the lead at the Asia Pacific Open Diamond Cup event in the Oarai Golf Club in Ibaraki.
At the Soudal Open in Belgium, New Zealand’s highest ranked male golfer Ryan Fox leads on his own through 54 holes and on the PGA Tour Champions, Steve Alker is in second place and three behind Steve Stricker in the chase for one of that tour’s major titles, the Regions Tradition in Birmingham in Alabama.
Campbell is playing the event in Japan courtesy of his Asian Tour status as the event is jointly sanctioned by both tours and although one of four players tied for the lead heading into today’s final round, a win would provide the 30 year old with Japan Tour status for the remainder of the year at least.
Already bound for The Open Championship at St. Andrews this July, Campbell has another chance to turn his already encouraging season into an even better one. He has already finished runner-up at the Vic Open and 8th at the Singapore Open in 2022.
“I played solid,” said the Queenstown based Campbell. “My front nine was really good. I just putted solid the whole day,” he said. “It’s a great golf course. It’s tough. You just have to stay patient out there.
“If I can hit it a little bit better tomorrow, I think I should be in a good position. I’ve been putting well.”
Campbell, a former world number six amateur, has been on form this year, with a runner-up finish at the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Vic Open in February being his best result to date which resulted in him earning a start at the Open Championship.
Campbell, who was sidelined for 18 months following a hip surgery before returning in April last year.
Campbell will be relishing the prospect of playing full-time in Japan, having played four events in 2017 but failing to make an impact. But that trip was memorable enough to make him keen on coming back for more.
“I love coming to Japan. The people here are amazing. I love the food as well. I love the golf courses we play here,” said Campbell.
“Every time we come out here, it’s always been amazing. I always enjoy myself here. It would be great to have a good day tomorrow.”
Ryan Fox – begins his third round on Saturday – photo Getty Images
Last week Ryan Fox’s 8th place finish in Belgium ensured he would gain a start at this coming week’s PGA Championship in Tulsa.
Perhaps surprisingly, he decided to play this week rather than head to the US earlier and prepare for one of golf’s majors but he will be pleased he did so as he leads the €2 million event and is chasing his second title of the year having won in the UAE earlier.
Fox returned home after that win and spent two months back in New Zealand but since his return he has continued to play well having finished 15th, 9th and 8th in the three events since.
Fox started his third round slowly but a final nine of 30 swept him to the lead ahead of England’s Sam Horsfield.
“I played really solid on the back to be honest, holed a couple putts as well and I hope I figured something out after a couple of scrappy drives early on in the round, and it felt pretty good form the tenth hole onwards. So, hopefully I can take that into tomorrow.
“So, you know you are going to make a few mistakes which I have done, I’ve gotten away with a couple this week, I’ve not got away with a few as well, and thankfully made a few birdies to counteract it.
“I have been in contention the last couple of weeks as well and not really done much on Sunday, so I am looking forward to being in the mix again. Obviously, Sam Horsfield is playing some good golf as well, and he is a heck of a player, so hopefully we will have a good tussle tomorrow.”
Fox is currently in 13th place in the DP World Tour rankings for this season and a win tomorrow would move him from just outside the top 100 in the world ranking and close to 60th.
Alker has been a revelation on the PGA Tour Champions since making his debut last August where he was forced to pre-qualify. Since then, it has been a simply stunning run and in 2022 he leads the money list with earnings just over US$1 million, more than US$200,000 ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez.
A win tomorrow would add another US$375,000 to his swelling bank account but given the event is a major on the PGA Tour Champions and would further elevate his standing at this level.
Alker trails Steve Stricker by three following a third round of 65 and is alone in second place and two ahead of Jimenez.
Golf works in strange ways and it might be that none of the three New Zealanders complete a victory tomorrow but there are hopes that Sunday May 15th could be one of the finest days in New Zealand golf.