After a superb campaign to date, Tom Lehman returns to Mauritius next week hoping to sign off 2012 in style by retaining his title in the European Senior Tour’s season ending event, the MCB Tour Championship.
The 53 year old American sealed an impressive wire-to-wire victory over the stunning LegendCourse at Constance Belle Mare Plage 12 months ago, finishing one shot clear of South African David Frost with rounds of 65, 68 and 71.
Lehman, the 2006 United States Ryder Cup Captain, is once again in fine form having recently won his second consecutive Charles Schwab Cup on the US Champions Tour, after winning the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Now the 1996 Open Champion is hoping to end his 2012 campaign in similar fashion on the Senior Tour by successfully defending the MCB Tour Championship.
“It was a special win for me last year,” he said. “When you come to somewhere like Mauritius and they make you feel so welcome you feel a sense of urgency to play well to say ‘thank you’.
“I had a great desire to play the best I could to say thank you to everyone. But on top of that, to play in the Senior Tour’s Tour Championship against so many great players, so many friends, and to win really meant a lot.
“There are many very good players who will be competing at the MCB Tour Championship, so I will have to play my best to have a chance to win again.
“Guys like David Frost and Barry Lane and Peter Fowler will be tough to beat. Tim Thelen, a fellow American as well as a friend of mine, has had a great year and has a game that will be very suited to the course.
“I expect him to make a big challenge. But there are, of course, a number of other guys who, if on their game, will always be tough, especially those who have experience of the course. I hate to mention names because someone always gets left out and there are many other players who have the ability to take the title.”
Lehman is looking forward to returning the hospitable island of Mauritius and taking on the Legend Course at Constance Belle Mare Plage, which proved a tough test for the field last year.
“I really enjoyed the Legend Course,” he said. “It is narrow but there is room to hit the ball which makes it fair. It is in great condition and is fun to play. But it is also very challenging.”
“I didn’t feel the need to hit many drivers on the course last year. My three-wood was used a great deal and I am certain it will be no different again this year. The issue is not length on this course, it is putting the ball in play. If you can do that, you will probably do well.
“There are some very good holes on the Legend course. I especially love the stretch of holes from number 12 to 16, with the par-five 13th and the par-four 14th being my favourites.”
Former World Number One Lehman joins Roger Chapman in the field for the European Senior Tour’s season finale, the Englishman having already sealed the John Jacobs Trophy as Order of Merit champion thanks to a magnificent year which featured Major victories in the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and the US Senior Open.
The battle continues for second place in the Order of Merit, with last year’s runner up Barry Lane €8,157 ahead of the in-form Tim Thelen, who won the previous Senior Tour event, the Fubon Senior Open in Taiwan, to seal his third title of 2012.
Englishman Phil Golding, who won the 1996 Mauritius Open, will make his debut in the event as a Senior, having turned 50 in July this year, and Denmark’s Steen Tinning, a two-time winner on The European Tour will make his first Senior Tour start after receiving an invitation to the event.
Tinning won the 2000 Wales Open and the 2002 Open de Madrid, and celebrated his 50th birthday last month.