Mike Hendry sets sights on British Open

AIMING HIGH: Michael Hendry wants to regain his No 1 position on the PGA Tour of Australasia’s order of merit.
AIMING HIGH: Michael Hendry wants to regain his No 1 position on the PGA Tour of Australasia’s order of merit.

For Mike Hendry, there is more on the line than just a golf tournament and a A$225,000 (NZ$282,000) winner's cheque at the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum.

The New Zealander is second on the PGA Tour of Australasia's order of merit, and the A$1.25 million PGA Championship represents his last chance to regain the No 1 spot he held for so long until 53-year-old Peter Senior usurped him with his Australian Open win in Sydney on Sunday.

Senior's A$225,000 winner's cheque boosted his earnings this year to A$259,000, while Hendry's tie for seventh lifted his to A$243,500.

Finishing the year as No 1 brings with it rewards that no amount of prizemoney can buy, however, such as a place in the 2013 British Open. Exemptions change each year but entry into some World Golf Championship events and a fast-track to the final stage of the 2013 qualifying school for the lucrative United States tour are also possibilities.

The 32-year-old Aucklander is certainly aware of the situation.

"The British Open is the only certainty at the moment but there might be a couple of WGC events too," he said before teeing off in yesterday's pro-am event.

"So it would be nice but I've got a big job to do. I don't think you can expect to win the order of merit without winning one of the big three tournaments, so I probably need to win this week."

Hendry's buildup on Queensland's Sunshine Coast has been slightly more mundane than last week, when he made his first-round tee time on Thursday only after a mad dash from Sydney airport after qualifying for next year's Japan Tour.

Earning his tour card for Japan, widely regarded as the third biggest tour behind the United States and Europe, was a big deal for Hendry, whose goal is to reach the world's top 50, which would get him entry into all the major worldwide events.

"I've climbed to 275 in the latest rankings [he's now New Zealand's No 2, 26 spots behind Danny Lee and 11 ahead of Michael Campbell] but just playing in Australia and OneAsia isn't going to get you enough ranking points to be where I want to be.

"Japan will allow me to get more ranking points, if I play well, but there are so many ups and downs in golf you can't take anything for granted."

Fellow Kiwis Mark Brown (fourth with $141,287) and Gareth Paddison (seventh with $87,980) could also claim top spot in the Australasian order of merit with a win at Coolum this week.

They are among 13 New Zealanders teeing up in today's first round, with Northern Ireland's 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke and South African Rory Sabbatini the "name" international players.

Greg Turner was the last Kiwi winner of the tournament, in 1999.