Michael Hendry wants to atone for last year

Michael Hendry has as good an excuse as anyone to skip this week's New Zealand Open, but said missing the Christchurch tournament was never an option.

Hendry, the tournament's top ranked player and joint favourite, is also desperate to atone for a poor showing at Clearwater last year where he missed the cut.

Win, lose or draw this week, Hendry is Japan-bound on Sunday night where he will compete in the Japan Tour's final stage of qualifying in the hope of securing a spot on the world's third biggest tour.

"So I could have easily taken the week off to prepare for Japan and have a bit of a rest because I've got so much golf coming up," he said.

"But the opportunity to win your national open and to win both the PGA [New Zealand PGA Pro-Am Championship] and the Open in the same year is just too tempting."

After rounds of 75 and 80 cut short his 2011 Open, Hendry has a bit of making up to do. Last year he was out of form and in need of a break, but ploughed through.

This year Hendry is in nick again and even a horrendous round in last week's Australian Masters couldn't stop him finishing inside the top 10.

Hendry said he knew a poor round was coming and his 79 on Saturday in Melbourne probably came at the right time for his New Zealand Open chances.

"I did know it was coming, my swing hadn't been in sync, but that round forced me to address it."

Working closely with his caddie and coach helped him make the small technical changes that were needed and his ball striking during Sunday's 68 was some of his best in recent times.

So he comes to Clearwater as one of three favourites - tied with Mark Brown and Australian Nick Cullen.

His face is on the promotional billboards and he's the top ranked player at the tournament. That might bring with it expectation and pressure, but none of that concerns the world No 350 and New Zealand No 4.

"I don't mind being one of the favourites at all," he said.

"It means I must be doing something right.

"But expectation and pressure is a personal thing; others can't put that on you, you put that on yourself.

"People who worry about pressure have to have a look at themselves. Saying that, you always want to do well so there's a level of expectation and that can lead to apprehension and nerves, but it's how you deal with those and use them to your advantage.

"The best players in the world are the ones that accept that pressure and that it's natural and they know how to handle it."

Hendry might be cool, calm and collected, but he knows this week won't be a walk in the park.

There might not be the big names that he played alongside last week like Adam Scott or Ian Poulter, but there were still plenty of golfers who could turn it on this week, he said.

Hendry doesn't seem the type to fear anyone, but he is expecting a serious challenge from fellow Kiwi Mark Brown.

"There's guys in this field that people may not have heard of, but I know can flat out play. On their week they can win, but to be honest, Mark Brown's playing some of the best golf of anyone in the world right now. He hasn't been winning - he has been getting some good results - but the way he's hitting the ball at the moment is phenomenal."

The Press