MACAU, Macau: Australian long hitter Scott Hend claimed victory at the Macau Open on Sunday as the tournament’s star draw Ernie Els was forced to content himself with third place.
On a day of drama in the $800,000 Asian Tour tournament, which also saw India’s Anirban Lahiri match the course record with an impressive nine-under-par 62, Hend capitalized on his overnight four-shot lead and never let Els come close to staging a comeback.
He finished the tournament with a three-stroke victory, closing with a four-under-par 67 for a 16-under-par 268 total.
Lahiri’s blistering fourth-day performance thrust him into second while four-time Major champion Els shared third with the Philippines’ Elmer Salvador.
Hend, currently ranked the 179th best player in the world, had a dreadful start to the first round with a dismal 74. But on days two, three and four he found his form battling head to head with Els for the top spot.
The South African began promisingly on the final day, sinking birdies on two, three and six. But a bogey on nine halted his momentum and he struggled to pressure Hend while Lahiri’s stunning round forced Els further down the table.
“It was very frustrating,” Els said after the tournament, according to a release put out by organizers.
“I started off nicely again and then made a soft bogey on nine. I couldn’t afford any mistakes. I needed to keep the pedal on the metal but I made that mistake and I didn’t play the back nine all that well either. Tough weekend but I think Scott was very strong.”
Hend, who now has three wins under his belt this year, said he was delighted to be able to play against Els and credited staying calm under pressure for the win.
“Ernie is one of the best players in the world,” he said. “I had my own goals and targets and I achieved my goal which was to stay patient, patient, patient. In the first four holes, I didn’t make any birdie. Ernie started to put some heat on me and all of the sudden; I hit a great shot on the fifth for birdie there. It was all about being patient.”
He admitted being rattled by his initial poor start in the tournament.
“Thursday was a difficult day, mentally and physically. Then on Friday and Saturday, I started holing putts which I haven’t done the whole year even when I won a couple of weeks ago. I’ve holed my fair share this week,” he said.