Scott Hend is not the type of personality to look over his shoulder.
Those who follow the globe-trotting Queenslander on Twitter will know he is an open book constantly looking forward, rarely wasting time glancing in the rearview mirror.
Yet as he prepares to tee it up in this week’s Nedbank Challenge at Sun City in South Africa, Hend could be forgiven for thinking that amidst the South African jungle he is one of the hunted.
The penultimate tournament of the European Tour season will determine which 50 players will advance to the $US8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, a tournament Hend played three years in succession from 2015-2017 but missed last year when he finished 93rd in the Race to Dubai rankings.
Winner of the Maybank Championship in Malaysia back in March, the 46-year-old sat comfortably inside the cut-off until a mid-season slump where he banked Race to Dubai points just once in nine starts.
A tie for 28th at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament was followed up by a tie for 36th at last week’s Turkish Airlines Open to provide a timely injection of points to sit 46th on the points race and a handy buffer to those in pursuit.
For Hend to be prevented from adding a trip to Dubai to his international schedule in 2019 five or more players beyond the top 50 cut-off would need to finish top 10 at Sun City, two of whom are players Hend knows all too well.
West Australian Jason Scrivener teamed up with Hend in a practice round on Tuesday but got dusted by Tommy Fleetwood and Gavin Green, Scrivener in need of at least a top-10 result to force his way into the DP World Tour field from his current position of 59th.
Kiwi Ryan Fox is the only other Australasian player in the field at Sun City and like Scrivener needs a strong result to earn a spot in Dubai.
Top-25 in three of his past four starts, Fox enters the Nedbank Challenge 54th on the Race to Dubai rankings, a top-20 finish this week potentially enough to move him into the top 50.
The trio don’t have great records at Sun City, Scrivener’s tie for 16th 12 months ago the only top-40 result either have recorded the past five years.
Nedbank Challenge tee times (AEDT)
6pm* – Scott Hend, Tom Lewis, Jordan Smith
6.33pm* – Ryan Fox, Nicolas Colsaerts, Richie Ramsay
6.44pm* – Jason Scrivener, George Coetzee, Shubhankar Sharma
* Starting from 10th tee