Australia’s Scott Hend has one hand on the prestigious Asian Tour’s Order of Merit trophy as the season comes to a climatic close at this week’s US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open.
The 43-year-old Order of Merit leader holds a sizeable lead of US$302,419 ahead of compatriot and second-ranked Marcus Fraser, who needs a victory at the venerable Hong Kong Golf Club to have any hope of winning the Merit title.
If Fraser wins, Hend can still become the new Asian Tour number one by finishing alone in 13th position at a tournament which he was victorious in 2014 when he pipped Filipino Angelo Que in a play-off.
With two victories at the True Thailand Classic and Queen’s Cup plus three other top-10s this season, big-hitting Hend has accumulated US$996,592 from 10 starts and is poised to become only the fourth player in Asian Tour history to surpass US$1 million in earnings in a season.
India’s Jeev Milkha Singh was the first to hit the seven-figure mark where he earned US$1.45 million in 2008 while Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand hit US$1.12 million in 2013 and reigning Merit champion Anirban Lahiri accumulated US$1.13 million last season.
Fraser, who was victorious in Malaysia earlier this season, has earned US$694,173 this season. In recent tournaments, he has conceded that Hend will become the new number one.
A winner’s cheque of US$333,330 awaits the 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open champion on Sunday.
Should Hend complete his ascension to number one on Sunday, it would cap a truly impressive career in Asia as he has won nine Asian Tour titles, finished runner-up on the Order of Merit twice and was fourth on three other occasions since making his debut in 2007.
By far, Hend is also the most successful international golfer on the Asian Tour and has won the eight tournaments over the last five years, the most by any player during the same time.
“As the UBS Hong Kong Open is the final event on the Asian Tour, it would be fantastic for me 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.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to win nine times in Asia. 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.”
Fraser and Hend will have to contend against a strong line-up of stars at the UBS Hong Kong Open as they go head-to-head for the Order of Merit battle.
Title holder Justin Rose of England, who is also the Olympic Games gold medalist, will return to defend his title while other top stars in field include Patrick Reed of the United States, Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, Ian Poulter of England and Masters Tournament champion Danny Willett of England
The Asian Tour field will be strong with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thongchai Jaidee, Liang Wen-chong of China, Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines as well as India’s Jyoti Randhawa and Arjun Atwal, all former Asian Tour number ones, challenging for honours.
More than 40 Asian Tour champions will be at the Hong Kong Golf Club in hope of ending the season on a high note.