Scott Hend floors Ernie Els to win Macau Open
Big-hitting Aussie scores three-shot win as South African superstar struggles
Australian Scott Hend put South African star Ernie Els on the ropes after nine holes, then boxed clever for the rest of the final round to win the US$800,000 Venetian Macau Open by three shots on Sunday.
US-based Hend shot a final-round 67 for a 16-under par total of 268 to beat Indian Anirban Lahiri, who equalled the course record of nine-under 62, with Els (67) finishing in a tie for third with Elmer Salvador (66) of the Philippines at 12 under.
Hend, 40, started the day four shots clear of world number 23 Els but a two-shot swing on the ninth hole gave Hend a huge advantage going into the back nine at the Macau Golf and Country Club.
As Els struggled to get back into the fight it was left to Lahiri to light up the course but an eight-shot deficit at the start of the day proved insurmountable.
Hend could afford to break into a smile when he hit the green from the tee-box high up on the mountaintop at the signature par-three 17th hole. He parred the hole, then cruised down the final hole to victory.
It was Hend’s third win on the Asian Tour this year and he collected a cheque of US$144,000. He has already won the Chiangmai Golf Classic and Mercuries Taiwan Masters this year.
Hend recovered brilliantly from a first-round 74, calling it a difficult day mentally and physically.
“On Friday and Saturday I started holing some putts which I haven’t been doing for most of the year, even when I won a few weeks ago. I holed my fair share this week.”
He said he felt Els turn up the heat when the four-time major winner birdied the second and third holes to cut the lead to two, but Hend responded quickly.
“I had one of the best players in the world right there with me and Ernie started to put the heat on, but I hit a couple of great shots into the fifth and sixth holes. It’s all about being patient.”
Hend said three wins in a year translated into "the best golf in my career”, but he had bigger fish to fry in the coming weeks with the big-money tournaments about to start,
“I’d like to have four majors in my back pocket [like Els],” he said. “It’s great to match up with these guys and my dream is to get back on the PGA Tour.”
Els said: “It was very frustrating. I started off nicely again and then made a soft bogey on nine. I couldn’t afford any mistakes. I needed to keep the pedal on the metal, but I made that mistake and I didn’t play the back nine all that well either. Tough weekend but I think Scott was very strong.
“There is always a bit of pressure in the final group. I had four shots to make up and four is a lot to make up especially with the calibre of Scott. He played so well and he was strong again. He deserved to win.”
Hend lies in second place in the Asian Tour order of merit, with winnings of US$541,565. Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat leads the race with US$711,074, but took this week off.