New Zealand Open champion Michael Hendry (pictured) is heading to the Fiji International looking to achieve some lofty career goals.
The tournament, which is just a short plane trip from his New Zealand home, provides Hendry a family holiday away from the course where he is aiming to secure a European Tour card and advance his prospects of winning the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
Since winning the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open in March, Michael Hendry is placed second on his home tour Order of Merit. A good week at the AUS$1.5 million Fiji International could see him take the top spot and be a genuine contender come the end of year tournaments.
It’s an achievement he has come close to in the past; finishing runner-up in 2016 and 2012 as well as third place finish in 2013. While he would enjoy all the career benefits attached with winning the Order of Merit, like a start in The Open and World Golf Championship events, for Hendry it is also about maintaining a strong connection with his home tour.
“I love playing the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and I want to maintain my card and a strong presence on the Tour,” said Hendry.
“I have come so close to winning the Order of Merit in the past that it is a goal that I want to achieve one day.
“I have put myself in a good position, there is still a lot of golf to be played but a good showing in Fiji with the prizemoney on offer gives me a really good chance to have a good crack at Rummy (current leader, Brett Rumford) at the end of the year and try and get over the top of him,” added Hendry, who currently trails Rumford by just over AU$100,000.
“So many people can still come into the mix, but I am obviously in a good position and just need to consolidate on my good start. It’s definitely on my radar.”
Also on Hendry’s radar is a European Tour card. A win at the tri-sanctioned Fiji International would guarantee him status on the lucrative tour until the end of the 2018 season.
“European Tour is a goal; I would like to play there if possible,” added Hendry.
“I became a conditional member of the European Tour at the end of last year knowing I would likely get one World Golf Championship to count towards the Race to Dubai, in the end I managed to get two which is nice.
“After Fiji I’m hoping to get an invite to potentially play Dunhill; I will hopefully have enough tournaments to get myself a European tour card.”
Fiji is a good place to start towards these goals; it has been a happy hunting ground for Hendry throughout his career.
When he first turned Pro, Hendry was a regular on the pro-am circuit visiting Fiji with great success; he won the Fiji Open in 2010.
As a result, the course knowledge he has acquired over the past 10 years makes Hendry one of the most experienced players teeing it up at the Fiji International.
However when Hendry arrives in Fiji this year, Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course will, like him, have received a make-over.
“I have played Natadola a lot so I know it’s good parts and its bad parts and it sounds to me like they have made subtle changes that will be for the better,” said Hendry, who earlier this month underwent surgery to correct a sinus issue.
“I had surgery on my sinuses, I had an issue that was effecting the bone structure around my right eye socket, they needed to equalize the pressure by clearing it out and drilling a hole at the back to ensure my eye sight would stay as it should. There was potential for me to get double vision. At the same time they gave my nose a bit of a whack and straightened it up.”
Already a world-class course, Vijay Singh has finessed the layout making Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course friendlier for all level of golfers.
For Hendry though, he doesn’t believe the new look layout will throw him off his game.
“I think they are doing the right thing. They are taking what was already an amazing golf course and hopefully the changes make it just that much better again,” added Hendry.
“I have heard of the changes Vijay has been making and tee shots don’t sound like they are that different. But obviously different approach shots will also dictate what you do off the tee.
“I imagine that it will have a similar feel, the wind direction can be pretty predictable and if the holes generally look quite similar off the tees it will have a similar feel to it.
“It’s a funny thing but you really get a sense of a golf hole, and the way it looks, from the tee box. I’ve played Natadola so many times over the years that I have become pretty comfortable with the way the tee shots looks.
“If they haven’t made too many changes to the tee shots and bunkering, where the ball lands off the tee, hopefully it will lend itself to being pretty familiar.”
While Hendry has lofty goals for his time at the Fiji International he also looks forward to combining some family time away from the course.
“With the amount of travel that I do, I spend a lot of time away from home and my family,” added Hendry.
“The fact that Fiji is so close and family friendly means Fiji is always a must play tournament for us as a family.”
The Fiji International will be played at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course from 17-20 August and is tri-sanctioned by the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, European Tour and Asian Tour.
For an image of Michael Hendry at the 2016 Fiji International please click here. Please credit Fiji International.