Scott Hend all but certain to end season as Asian Tour’s Order of Merit champion
Big Australian looks rock solid at three-under as nearest rival Marcus Fraser falters after two rounds of the UBS Hong Kong Open
Scott Hend has put the champagne on ice at Fanling despite scores over the first two rounds ensuring the big Aussie looks even more certain than ever to end the season as the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit winner, whatever may happen across the weekend.
To be honest, it needed a minor miracle coming in to the UBS Hong Kong Open for Hend to be caught by second-placed compatriot Marcus Fraser. The equation was that Fraser had to win the event, and Hend finish worse than 13th for Hend to be overhauled as he’d led coming in with US$996,592.66 in season’s taking to Fraser’s US$694,173.16.
Fraser’s two-round total of even-par 140 meant he just made the cut on Friday but he’s a long way back and Hend looks rock solid at three-under.
WATCH: Roundup of Day Two at the 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open
There’s little doubt Hend will be chuffed that his first Order of Merit title is now pretty much a given, but his eyes are still firmly on the prize on offer at Fanling.
A two-under second-round 68 left the 2014 Hong Kong Open champion within reach of the leading pack as the business end of the tournament arrives.
“Perfect,” was the 43-year-old’s appraisal of his position. “We’ve all seen guys come from way back and guys that are way forward seem to stumble a little bit because that’s the way the golf course is.”
Victory – or outright second – would also set Hend on course for a debut at the Masters in April.
With two days to play, it’s obviously a long way off but Hend likes the way his game has held together at the end of a long season that has featured victories at the True Thailand Classic and the Queen’s Cup, along with three other top-10s on the Asian Tour, a second in the European Masters - and an appearance at the Rio Olympics.
“We’re there for the weekend now and we can try and go forward,” said Hend. “[Today] the timing was much better. My drive was very poor but irons were much better. All in all it’s sort of shaping up pretty good.”
Another evergreen with the Masters on his mind – at least a little – is the 47-year-old Thongchai Jaidee, who needs to finish alone on 13th or better this week to crack the world’s top 50 and thereby qualify to make his sixth appearance at Augusta.
The three-time Asian Tour number one sits at five-under with just one bogey blemish across the first two rounds – a model of consistency, as always.
“I’ve no complaints,” said the 2016 Open de France champion. “I struggled with the putting and couldn’t hole any short putts. I’m very confident with my iron play but definitely struggling with putting because the greens are so difficult. I’ve been here many years, though, and especially this year, the golf course is fantastic.
“It’s very important that you hit tee to fairway. If you keep the ball in play on the fairway, you’re going to be okay. If you’re missing the fairway, things will be difficult because the green are firm. For me, I think it’s a putting contest this week.”