Hendry excited to line up in elite field

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2013

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New Zealand's Mike Hendry is accustomed to being a big fish in a relatively small pond when he turns up to golf tournaments.

Whether on the OneAsia tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia or in his homeland, the New Zealand No 1 and world No 194 invariably goes into an event as one of the pre-tournament favourites, but not this week.

There hasn't been any media attention coming his way in Florida, apart from inquiries as to who this Kiwi bloke is and whether anybody knows anything about him. Yes, Hendry will be like a goldfish in a pond the size of Lake Taupo at Doral's famed TPC Blue Monster course as he makes his World Golf Championships debut tomorrow (NZT).

That's not to say he doesn't belong at the US$8.5 million WGC-Cadillac Championship, or that he doesn't have the ability to perform well. He knows he does.

But an elite field of 65 boasting the world's top-50 golfers and some of the best of the rest is a far cry from an average Australasian tour event such as last week's NZ PGA Championship, which he won for the second successive time.

Hendry qualified for the second of four annual WGC events courtesy of finishing second to Australian veteran Peter Senior in last year's Australasian tour order of merit (only Nos 1 and 2 qualified). Fields simply don't get any stronger, even at major championships. And with no cut - all 65 golfers will complete four rounds - there is no place to hide if things turn pear-shaped.

Not that the Hendry should need a place to hide. The global stage is exactly where the 33-year-old aims to be on a regular basis so he is far from daunted; he is relishing his first chance to shine at the top level.

He has taken confidence from his form in 2013 - with a first, second and fourth from three events seeing him take the early lead in the 2013 Australasian money list.

"It will be the biggest event of my career but it's just another tournament and this is where I want to be playing more regularly, so I'm just looking forward to it," he said. "If I put greater emphasis on this week than any other then I risk applying too much pressure on myself. My job is no different, just trying to take as few shots as possible."

At No 194 in the world, Hendry is in the top 200 for the first time but he'll be comfortably the lowest ranked player on show at Doral.

"It's just going to be a great experience against those guys to see how far away I am from that level," Hendry said.

"It will be nice to fly under the radar. Nobody will know me, which is probably a good thing."

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Somebody knows him, though. The Kiwi was rated one of five "sleeper" picks on the official tournament website, though he's the only player in the field who cannot be selected in Yahoo Fantasy Golf. He was either overlooked, or simply discarded.

Hendry arrived in Florida on Monday but is used to short turnarounds and "there isn't much better preparation than playing a competitive golf tournament, to get those juices flowing."

He was excited by his form this year, having taken five weeks off over Christmas.

"The swing work done I've done with my coach over last few years has become pretty easy to manage. Good golf always feels like it's around the corner at the moment so hopefully that form will continue and I give myself a chance."

His knowledge of Doral was little more than what he had seen on television but "a few people who have played it have given me some insight".

Hendry is paired for the first two rounds with American Brian Gay.

- Fairfax Media

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