An exhaustive search for a driver he can rely on to find Winged Foot’s notoriously narrow fairways has led Scott Hend to put an old favourite back in the bag ahead of a US Open return almost a decade in the making.
One of only two of the nine Australians in the field this week who were at Winged Foot 14 years ago when Victorian Geoff Ogilvy became a major winner, Hend has already begun his US Open preparation, wrestling with the dense rough and perfecting his punch shot.
Prior to his arrival in New York from his home in Jacksonville, however, Hend undertook a comprehensive test of no less than 14 drivers before ultimately settling on a Ping G400 first released back in 2017.
“I had 14 drivers on the range the other day so I’m trying to find one that goes relatively straight,” Hend said of his Winged Foot arsenal.
“It took three days but I’ve narrowed it down to one driver and we think that one could possibly be in there come Thursday.
“I’ve just had a brutal time. I’ve had a couple of drivers that worked and all of a sudden the heads crack on them. They give you a new one but it’s never the same.
“I’m just trying to get back to one that works because before the lockdown I was driving it quite poorly because I had a driver that broke and got a replacement and it’s just not the same.”
The G400 is not the only old club in Hend’s bag given a new lease of life.
Having struggled since the resumption of the European Tour, the 47-year-old has also changed out his putter, reverting back to an Odyssey Versa 1 that first hit the shelves in 2013 to try and rekindle some winning form.
“That’s the one I won a lot of tournaments with,” Hend explained.
“I brought a trusty Odyssey Versa back in and hopefully it brings back some magic on the greens and I can start holing some putts.”
Along with fellow Queenslander Adam Scott, Hend is the only returning Aussie to Winged Foot this year, his place in the field coming about by his runner-up finish on the 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit.
It’s the site of his best finish in a major championship but this year will have a very different feel given the lack of crowds.
Admitting that the lack of atmosphere may have contributed to his poor results on the European Tour, Hend is hoping the intrinsic energy of a major championship will once again light the competitive fuse to contend.
“I haven’t approached any major too well because I haven’t performed in any of them. I’ve extremely underperformed compared to what my potential is,” Hend said.
“I’ve come back from the break and really struggled to get started again. It’s a really strange thing because in all my years of playing golf I’ve never had that big a break and a lot of these other guys are the same.
“I’ve just really struggled to get going and we’re trying to work on a way to try and fire up.
“I’ve been very flat since we’ve come back and maybe that’s part of it. There’s not that buzz going around and not the adrenaline, that feel that you’re in a tournament atmosphere.
“At the moment it feels like I’m strolling out to Nudgee Golf Club pegging it up with a couple of the boys playing split sixes.
“I’ve found it really, really hard to get my focus and my concentration. I know that sounds stupid for a guy who has been a professional as long as I have but for me, some weeks I questioned what I was doing out there.
“There’s something I need to find and I need to find it pretty quick.”