Australian Scott Hend is out to seal a maiden Asian Tour order of merit crown at next month’s UBS Hong Kong Open as the former champion returns to Fanling seeking to end a standout 2016 on a high.
Hend, who claimed the title at Hong Kong Golf Club in 2014, is leading the money list by over US$300,000 from compatriot Marcus Fraser with just five counting events remaining, including this week’s stop in the Philippines.
But Hend will arrive at Fanling still in pole position as both he and Fraser are pursuing their options on the European Tour and will also miss the World Cup event as Adam Scott and Marc Leishman are representing Australia.
And with the Panasonic Open India the week before Hong Kong offering only a total prize pool of US$400,000 compared to the US$2 million which will be up for grabs at Fanling, Hend is ideally placed to become the first Australian to win the Asian Tour’s order of merit.
“As the UBS Hong Kong Open is the final event on the Asian Tour, it would be fantastic to produce my best stuff there and seal the order of merit title for the first time in my career. It would really cap a great year for me,” said Hend, who has claimed US$996,592 from 10 events in 2016, having won twice this year.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to win nine times in Asia. On the order of merit, I think I finished twice in second position and I finished fourth maybe two or three times.
“I’m from Australia and I’m very close to Asia, and being able to win the order of merit, it’s just a goal of mine to achieve.”
Hend finished tied for 25th at last week’s European Tour event in Turkey, and will be looking for another strong finish this week in South Africa to earn a place in the high-profile season-ending event in Dubai.
The 43-year-old already had playing rights in Europe following his win at the co-sanctioned event in 2014 – when the Hong Kong Open appeared on the European Tour schedule twice in the same season – before extending those following his victory earlier this year at the Thailand Classic.
“Going back to Fanling which I’ve won at previously will be lots of fun and I’m hoping to play my best golf there again to contend for another win,” said Hend.
“I always enjoy playing in Hong Kong as there is such a great buzz around the tournament.
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“My season has been memorable with two wins and an appearance at the Olympic Games, but I feel I could have won one or two more tournaments if lady luck was on my side.”
The Hong Kong Open will also offer world number 63 Hend his last chance to earn valuable points in his bid to move into the top 50 for the first time in his career and claim a maiden trip to next year’s Masters at Augusta.
“I’ve never played at the Masters and I think it would be a golf course I would be able to play very well around,” he said.
“Obviously, like a lot of people, I have seen it on TV every April. I would like to be there once and walk down the fairways.”
Hend, though, will face stiff competition at Hong Kong Golf Club next month will the likes of 2015 winner and Olympic Games gold medallist Justin Rose, Masters champion Danny Willett and American Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed headlining the field for the December 8-11 event.