An invitation to The Open Championship at Royal Portrush is the extra incentive dangling in front of Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Scott Hend heading into the Kolon Korea Open at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.
Leading the Order of Merit by just over $55,000 from Thai sensation Jazz Janewattananond, Hend returns to the Korean Open not only hoping to extend that advantage but secure one of the two places on offer to The Open.
The top two finishers in the top eight not otherwise exempt will earn a start at Royal Portrush with Hend headlining eight Australians and Kiwi Ben Campbell in the field.
His win at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia earlier this year propelled Hend to the top of the moneylist and provided the impetus to set his sights on a second Order of Merit crown in the space of three years.
“After winning the 2016 Order of Merit, I thought it would be great if, at some stage, I can get the chance to contend for the title again,” Hend told Asian Tour Media, paired with recent US PGA Tour winner Kevin Na and defending champion Minchel Choi in the opening two rounds.
“It will be a nice finish to the year with Jazz playing well and my drive to try and win the title again.
“I am sure it will be a close battle. A very busy end of year for me as I am trying to fit events from two Tours into a condensed few months.”
Despite battling injury throughout 2018 Hend played 31 tournaments across the globe last year and said that his 10th Asian Tour title validated the hard work he put in to begin his 2019 campaign physically prepared.
“2019 has been a year of recovery for me. I was injured last year and have been working hard to get back some form,” Hend said.
“It was nice to win in Malaysia and prove to myself that hard work is worth the troubles and sacrifices.”
Although he hasn’t played the Kolon Korea Open since 2007, Hend had no problem recalling the challenge that Woo Jeong Hills presents.
“It’s been a while since I last played the Korea Open, but I am looking forward to the challenge again,” said Hend, who has finished in the top five on the Order of Merit seven times since 2007.
“My main recollection of the course is that the greens have lots of gradient and can be fast and tricky with tough pin placements.
“I love visiting Korea and I look forward to every opportunity that I can get to come back and play or just relax and see my friends.”
Travis Smyth is the first of the Aussies to tee off from the first tee at 6.41am followed by Campbell at 6.52am and Terry Pilkadaris at 7.03am local time.
The other Aussies teeing it up are Jake Higginbottom, Junseok Lee, Jason Norris, Cameron John and Zach Murray.
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