Licking my chops: defending champion Scott Hend confirms tilt at US$1.1 million Macao Open
The Australian is looking to become the first three-time winner in the tournament’s 17-year history at Macau Golf and Country Club in October, with the event now the richest organised solely by the Asian Tour
In-form Australian Scott Hend confirmed on Tuesday he has set his sights on defending his Venetian Macao Open title come October - at the same time event organisers announced a rise in prize money that now makes the tournament the richest organised solely by the Asian Tour.
Hend said he was delighted to hear that total prize pool of US$1.1 million was now up for grabs for the winner of the October 13 to 16 event at the Macau Golf and Country Club – up US$100,000 and the fourth year-on-year prize money rise for the event.
A second victory on the trot would make the 42-year-old the first three-time winner in the tournament’s 17-year history.
“I love playing in Macau anyway but the extra prize money has me licking my chops a bit,” said Hend. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not counting the money already but I feel I have a pretty good chance.
“The conditions can get a little bit difficult and you have to be a bit of a grinder, have a will to get out there and have a crack at it in those conditions. I like how the golf course is a lit bit bouncy, a little but dry – I find it an interesting and exciting golf course to play. It never seems to be the same one day after another.”
Victory again in Macau would cap what is looking to already be history-making year for Hend, who rode some accurate iron play to a four-under-par final round 67 and a one stroke victory on Sunday at the Queen’s Cup in Koh Samui, Thailand.
That was Hend’s ninth tournament win on the Asian Tour, and followed his one stroke win at the True Thailand Classic in March. He also has three other top-10 finishes this season.
It lifted Hend to 74th in the world – and put him on target for a spot on the two-man Australian team for August’s Rio Olympics as the sport returns to the fold after an absence of 112 years.
With both Adam Scott - ranked eighth in the world - and Marc Leishman (37th) already saying they will not make themselves available due to scheduling conflicts, that leaves world number one Jason Day and Hend the top-ranked Australians with three weeks to go until the Olympic selection deadline.
“Obviously I’d love to be there,” said Hend. “It’s one of my goals but Marcus Fraser [ranked 80th] and Matty Jones [84th] are with me battling it out for the last place in the team. It’s going to be a great three weeks ahead.”
Hend’s three stroke victory over India’s Anirban Lahiri and Chiragh Kumar in Macau last year followed on from his one stroke tied for second effort behind Lahiri the year before, and his three stroke win over that man Lahiri in the 2013 edition of the event.
Eight of the long-hitting Australian’s nine wins on the Asian Tour have come in the past four years and he put the consistency in his game down to the fact he is able these days to quickly bounce back when things don’t all go his own way.
A case in point was the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May where Hend fought off the unwanted advances of some unruly British fans on the third day to lead by one stroke, before a final round six-over-par 78 saw him plummet to joint 15th place and six shots off eventual winner Chris Wood of England.
“I was gutted,” said Hend. “I should have made a better effort of it. I changed my course management on the Sunday and thought I had to do more than I did. But my game is always a work in progress – it has been for 20 years – so I hope I am close to getting everything right. But to bounce back and win last week validated that I am playing well.”