Date: May 27, 2016
Author: Bernie McGuire, Surrey, England

Hend fires brilliant Olympic reminder

Scott Hend has launched his hat into the Olympic ring with a superb opening round at the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship.

The 43-year-old, enjoying another fine season away from the spotlight of the US PGA Tour, pushed the Australian flag up at Wentworth for the first time in 26 years, alongside joint leaders Y.E. Yang and Joost Luiten.

Wearing a pair of eye-catching lime green trousers, Hend seized eight birdies and had just one bogey in a storming seven-under-par 65 in ideal conditions on day one on the famed ‘Burma Road’ West Course in Surrey.

Hend’s score is just one shot off the 64 he posted on day two en route to victory 10 weeks ago in the co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour True Thailand Classic – his 12th worldwide since turning pro in 1997.

Hend also posted a 65 ahead of finishing T4th three events later in the Shenzhen International in China.

All of which points to the jovial Queenslander’s imperious recent form in working his way to No.85 in the world rankings, just 17 behind Marcus Fraser in the race to join Jason Day in the Australian Olympic team in Rio in August.

Fraser, conversely, couldn’t find a birdie in playing his way out of contention at six over and will need to play very well just to make the cut tonight.

Hend’s round was in stark comparison to the one he turned in on debut at Wentworth a year ago in signing for scores of 72 and 79.

Not since 1990, when Victorian Mike Harwood captured the then Volvo PGA Championship, has the “Southern Cross” flown so high at European Tour HQ.

“The key to my round today was just course management, being patient on the course, not hitting driver when I really wanted to hit driver,” Hend said.

“I tried aggressive here last year and it really doesn't work as I missed the cut. So I thought I'd just be a little bit cautious, a little cautious, and a bit more aggressive into the greens. We'll see how that plays out during the week. There's a long three more days to go and obviously weather permitting, see what happens.

“Every week is a different week and form for me (and) not really a true indication of everything.

“I have missed three cuts since winning in Thailand, so you can read into it what you will, but then I am comfortable where I am running and whether that is being in last place or running first.”

Hend was quizzed after his round how he could explain missing the cut one year and then returning to the same course and shooting a 65.

He responded in his own quintessentially laid-back manner by citing his 75-76- 80-79 for a 22-over par tally to finish 63rd  at the WGC Cadillac Championship in March before crossing the Pacific a week later to win in Thailand on 18 under.

“I don’t know.  How do you move from shooting 22 over par at Doral and winning the following week?   Same sort of answer,” he said.

“It’s a different week, different day and a different attitude.  It’s playing golf.

“But then it’s also about getting a grasp of the golf courses here in Europe and just trying to get a full handle on the grass and how to play them.

“It’s a different type of golf than what I’m used to, so I’ve got to be a bit more patient and that was the key today.”

Also in the mix at Wentworth is fellow Tour veteran Richard Green who turned in an incredibly entertaining round of 67 to sit T5th, one shot behind Masters champion Danny Willett.

Victorian Green had four bogeys, but incredibly offset them with seven birdies and an eagle on the par-five fourth hole.

Andrew Dodt sits T21 at -2, while Golf Australia rookie squad member Nathan Holman is T54 at even par.