Des Smyth will attempt to become the first player to win the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters three times when he defends his title at Woburn Golf Club this week against the best field ever amassed for the event.
The Irishman held off the challenge of 2011 Order of Merit winner Peter Fowler and former Ryder Cup Captain Mark James 12 months ago in front of record crowds of more than 23,000 people, triumphing for a second time in three years.
With Englishman Carl Mason (2006-7) the only other player to win the title more than once, Smyth can claim an historic treble this week on a course that will be hosting its 30th tour event.
At the halfway mark of the European Senior Tour season, Smyth currently sits 15th on the Order of Merit, with a share of eighth place in the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship his best finish so far this campaign.
He heads to Woburn on the back of three consecutive tied 14th place finishes, but as he chases his first win beyond the age of 60, Smyth believes the Duke’s Course at Woburn can once again bring out the best in his game.
“I’ve always played well at Woburn over the years and I feel like my game is coming around, so I think I will be in good shape for Woburn,” said Smyth. “I just need to improve my putting, but I always seem to putt well there.
“I know what it takes to win at Woburn because both of the times I won I shot ten under par, so that is my target as it seems to be the winning score.
“It’s a tree lined course, which promotes straight hitting and that it is my strength. It is a great golf course and it has always been one of the Senior Tour’s best tournaments. I’m very lucky to have won it twice and I would love to do it another time.
“I feel like I’m playing better and I’m getting a good feeling. It’s hard to explain, but going back to a place where you’ve done well before always helps.”
Colin Montgomerie, another player with a strong affinity for Woburn Golf Club, this week makes his debut in the £300,000 tournament in is his first appearance in a regular Senior Tour event.
The Scot was runner-up and third on his last two appearances over the Duke’s Course, in the 1999 and 2000 British Masters respectively.
He was also third on the Duke’s Course in the British Masters in 1994 and tenth in 1993, and he will now look to extend that record by attempting to become the second Ryder Cup Captain after James (2005) to win the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters.
Meanwhile, Spaniard Santiago Luna will be chasing back-to-back victories after winning the SSE Scottish Senior Open at Fairmont St Andrews a fortnight ago.
Sam Torrance, who finished joint runner behind Luna in Scotland, will be hoping to build on his first top five finish of the season, and he is one of four former Ryder Cup Captains in the field, alongside James, Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam.