Queenslander Scott Hend has launched into the second Australian Olympic team berth with just three weeks until the Rio team is finalised.
Hend recorded a one-shot triumph at the Queen’s Cup in Thailand today for his second title of the season and ninth Asian Tour career victory, pushing him past Marcus Fraser in the race to the Olympics.
The big-hitting Aussie overcame a two-shot deficit with a final round of four-under-par 67 at the Santiburi Samui Country Club to pip home talent Gunn Charoenkul, who signed off with a bogey-free 66 for his best finish on Tour.
Overnight leader Prom Meesawat endured a disappointing 72 to finish three back in joint third place with American Paul Peterson (69), Korea’s Jeunghun Wang (69) and Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert (66).
“I lost the tournament in Wentworth, lost the tournament in Mauritius and had chances in China. That’s four times this year and I didn’t win. Whether this was my golf course or not, I’ve been playing very good golf and trying to not get down on myself. It’s nice to win again,” said Hend, who was victorious at the True Thailand Classic earlier this season.
Hend’s latest victory projects him to rise to world No.77 when the rankings are released this week – the fourth-best Aussie but with Adam Scott and Marc Leishman already unavailable.
“There are three more weeks for the Olympic qualifying. I’m 43 this year, who knows how much longer (I can play) although I’m getting better with age,” Hend said.
“It’ll be nice to go the Olympics and be one of the first Australians to play in it since golf’s reinclusion. It’s all these different things that you chalk up in your career and when you’re finished, you just sit back and say this is what I did,” said Hend, who totalled 15-under-par 269 and earned US$54,000.
Hend turned in 35 and then drew level with Prom with birdies on 11 and 12. He surged ahead with a seven-foot birdie on 14, which the Thai bogeyed after finding trouble with an errant drive.
With a two-shot lead, the Aussie parred home to hoist the Queen’s Cup, becoming only the second non-Thai golfer to win the tournament since it joined the Asian Tour Schedule in 2009.
“I sort of put the bit between the teeth and got on 11 and hit driver up to near the green. I took the hole on as I thought I needed to make a move. Prom was ahead then and I chipped to four feet for birdie and on 12, I hit another great drive and hit it to six feet for another great birdie,” Hend said.
“Unfortunately for Prom, he made a mistake on the 14th hole which I made another birdie and that was a big swing. I saw I had a two-shot lead coming down the last hole and I didn’t want to do anything stupid or ridiculous.”
Gunn, 24, charged into contention by turning in 32 but the birdies dried up on the back nine. He had a chance to put some pressure on Hend by missed an eagle chance from 15 feet at the last hole.
“I was striking it really good and I kept making good putts on the front nine. I could just see the breaks. On the back nine, I looked at the leaderboard on 11 and I said okay, I’ve got to do something.
“But I just couldn’t get the breaks right then, I got the speed right but I missed a lot of chances, about six or seven holes. I couldn’t make birdie until the last hole. I hit it close on 18 for eagle and it would have been nice to put some pressure on him.
“Hopefully I can keep improving from here. I’ll keep working hard for sure,” Gunn said.
Prom, chasing a third Asian Tour title, was disappointed he failed to win on home soil for the first time.
“I was playing all right, but didn’t make any putts. Hendy played good and hit almost all fairways. He had a good up and down on 13 and then I made bogey on 14. He played solid golf,” Prom said.