Thelen braced for Bad Ragaz defence

01/07/2013 10:03:38
 Tim Thelen   (Getty Images)
Tim Thelen (Getty Images)

Tim Thelen defends the first of his three European Senior Tour titles this week, as the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open marks its 18th consecutive edition.

The American held off former Ryder Cup Captains Ian Woosnam and Mark James at Golf Club Bad Ragaz 12 months ago, having claimed his maiden Senior Tour title seven days earlier at the Berenberg Bank Masters.

With the latter tournament moving to August, it means Thelen, who won his third title of 2012 at the Fubon Senior Open in Taiwan last November, first assumes the challenge of being a defending champion in Switzerland this week at one of the most picturesque venues on the Senior Tour.

Golf Club Bad Ragaz is the longest running host venue on the Senior Tour, having staged the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open since 1997.

There has been plenty of drama and excitement during that time at a venue renowned for low scoring, with Juan Quiros (2006), Carl Mason (2008) and Angel Fernandez (2011) sharing the course record of 61 at the 6,183 yard, par 70 course.

All three are in the field again this week, along with rookie Jamie Spence who enjoyed one of the highlights of his career on another Swiss course 21 years ago.

The Englishman, who made his Senior Tour debut in the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open earlier this month, won the 1992 European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre, coming from ten shots back with a European Tour record equalling low final round of 60, before defeating Swede Anders Forsbrand in a play-off.

Spence’s compatriot Philip Golding will also be hoping his ability to shoot low scores continues in Switzerland. Golding carded three consecutive rounds of 64 last year – the first time that has happened on the European, Challenge or Senior Tour – and he conjured an arguably even more impressive 66 in tough conditions at Royal Porthcawl three weeks ago to win his maiden title in the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open.

Former World Number One Woosnam finished tied third on home soil behind Golding, and after finishing third in last year’s Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, the Welshman will be keen to return to winning ways for the first time in two years.

Aside from Thelen, former champions in the field include Peter Fowler (2011), Denis O’Sullivan (2002) and the only player to win the title three times, Mason, who lifted the trophy in 2007, 2008 and 2010.