Kenneth struggles as two-way championship battle brews

Kenneth De Silva

Singapore: The burden of expectation proved too much for Kenneth De Silva as the 21-year-old Malaysian hope failed to impose himself during round three of the Asian Amateur Championship at Singapore Island Country Club.

Starting the round in the final flight, Kenneth found the going tough as a combination of misplaced tee shots and failure to convert crucial putts saw him return with a dismal one-over 73 on the day. As the frustration grew with every putt that failed to drop, Kenneth suffered from lapses in concentration but redeemed himself with a battling display of scrambling to save par on more than one occasion. He finished with a 54-hole total of seven-under 209 with his only birdie of the round came at the par-five ninth.

The score left him ruing what could have been and most importantly left him with a massive seven-stroke deficit behind overnight leader Ben Campbell. “Yeah, I survived on my iron play today but I could have easily gotten three to five birdies in the bag, which wuld have left me with a little less to do tomorrow. I was just not able to connect my teeshot during the first three quarters of the game, it was just all over the place and I was getting very frustrated, so maybe 73 on a day like this can’t be that bad.”

“I don’t want to change anything but I need to work on my putting tomorrow,” added Kenneth, who missed his fair share of putts from less than 20 feet.

Campbell will go into the final round tomorrow with a raring Hideki Matsuyama breathing down his neck after 19-year-old defending champion from Japan posted a flawless seven-under 65. The New Zealander looked to be coasting to an unassailable lead but saw gap narrowed after a drink on the 12th and consequently, posting a double bogey. Campbell however  recovered strongly with two birdies in his final three holes for a 69 and hung on to a slim one-stroke lead going into the fourth and final round tomorrow.

“I saw a leader board on the par-five 16th but I just ignored it, I don’t like to look at the leader board while I am playing. I just like to play my own game and focus on that, I don’t want to pay attention to what anyone else is doing on the course. I try to shoot the best that I can, if it is good enough it is good enough, and if it’s not then it’s not,” said Campbell when asked if he was aware of Matsuyama’s march.

“I finished birdie, par, birdie, so that wasn’t too bad. I had a disappointing double when I was at -14 under so it would have been nice to keep my low round going, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Campbell, who underwent surgery on his foot just seven weeks ago, estimated that he may need to get to 20-under par to win the tournament. However, he insisted that he will not be intimidated playing with Matsuyama in tomorrow’s final group. “He is just another player in the tournament”, he explained. “I just want to keep going out there and do what I’ve been doing for the last couple of days. We will see how it all ends up tomorrow.”

Matsuyama, 19, played down his performance, which included birdies at holes 3, 6, 11, 13, 14, 16 and 17, claiming to be disappointed in himself. “I think I was lucky, I don’t think I played as well as my first round,” he said referring to the 67 he shot on Thursday. “In fact I don’t think I played as well as I’d liked to today. I am hoping to manage my play better for Sunday.”

“Last year I did not know much of the pressure because I have never been to an Asian Amateur Championship, there was no pressure at all,” explained Matsuyama, who has a college teammate caddying for him this week.

“However this year, I want to overcome that because I really want to go back to Augusta really bad. There were too many emotions going around in today’s play but I will have to manage that better tomorrow – I will try to enjoy the pressure tomorrow.

“I have nothing special strategy wise, I think all the players will get a lot of pressure coming into Sunday but this is normal. For my own strategy, I like to my focus on my own game.”

Leading third round scores
-14 Ben Campbell (NZL) 67-66-69
-13 Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 67-71-65
-10 Cameron Smith (AUS) 68-69-69
-9 Lee Soo-min (KOR) 65-72-70
-8 Vaughan McCall (AUS) 69-72-67, Masamichi Ito (JPN) 70-70-68
-7 Ryan Fox (NZL) 69-70-70, Kenneth De Silva (MAS) 67-69-73
-6 Yosuke Asaji (JPN 69-74-67
-5 Matthew Stieger (AUS) 70-72-69

Selected others
-3 Low Khai Jei (MAS) 73-69-71
+7 Paul San Weng Yau (MAS) 76-74