Michigan mission for Europeans

5/21/2012 12:30:39 PM
Bernhard Langer   (Getty Images)
Bernhard Langer (Getty Images)

A strong European Senior Tour contingent will travel across the Atlantic this week for the season’s first Senior Major, the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid in Michigan.

In total, 29 Senior Tour members will tee it up at Harbor Shores, in Benton Harbor,  trying to succeed Tom Watson as champion, with the American unable to defend his title due to a wrist injury.

Looking for his first US Senior PGA Championship title is Germany’s Bernhard Langer, winner of The Senior Open Championship and US Senior Open Championship in 2010. Langer, who was runner-up to Jay Haas in this event in 2008, is joined in the field by fellow former European Ryder Cup Captain Mark James, while Sandy Lyle continues his quest for a first Major as a Senior.

Meanwhile, Englishman Gary Wolstenholme will be hoping to build on his impressive start to the 2012 season. The former Walker Cup player captured his second Senior Tour title in the Mallorca Open Senior two weeks ago to go into the season’s first Senior Major top of the Senior Tour Order of Merit, having finished fourth on the money list in 2011.

The three men who finished above him last year will also travel to America, with Peter Fowler, Barry Lane and Andrew Oldcorn all having made solid starts to the season in Mallorca. Fowler opened his defence of the John Jacobs Trophy with a share of 16th position, while Lane finished sixth and Oldcorn tied eighth.

There is a debut for Englishman Paul Wesselingh who finished joint runner-up on his debut in Mallorca to earn his spot in the field. That meant the 50 year old, who also came runner-up in the Qualifying School in February to gain his Senior Tour card, will have to forfeit his place in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, but it is a sacrifice he hopes will benefit his Senior Tour aspirations.

“Any money I win there will count towards the Order of Merit, which will help give me a head start on a lot of the other players, while there’s also the experience as well,” said Wesselingh.

Watson, an honorary member of The European Tour,  was forced to withdraw at the weekend with a wrist problem having claimed his sixth Senior Major and 14th overall with victory 12 months ago at Valhalla Golf Club.

The American defeated compatriot David Eger in a play-off to become the oldest player to win a Senior major since the establishment of either the Senior Tour or US Champions Tour, and the second youngest in history after Jock Hutchinson, who was 62 when he won the title in 1947.

Opened in 2010, Harbor Shores is hosting a Major Championship for the first time and was designed by 18-time Major Champion Jack Nicklaus. It will also host the US Senior PGA Championship in 2014.