The race to The 2014 Ryder Cup might have today begun 130 miles away at Celtic Manor, but there was also a distinctly Ryder Cup tinged flavour to proceedings at Woburn Golf Club at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters Tour with former European Captain Colin Montgomerie set to continue his Senior Tour adventure.
Montgomerie, who this week makes his third appearance on The European Senior Tour after turning 50 in June, is joined at Woburn, near Milton Keynes, by three fellow former European Ryder Cup Captains in Mark James, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam in what is widely regarded as the finest field ever assembled for the event, with almost half of the 72 players on show former European Tour winners.
The eight-time Order of Merit winning Scot returns to the revered Duke’s Course with fond memories of some excellent performances here over the years, having finished in the top ten on four occasions at Woburn in the British Masters between 1994 and 2000.
“I’ve had a few good tournaments here,” said Montgomerie, who memorably led Europe to a stunning victory in The 2010 Ryder Cup at the venue this week hosting The European Tour’s ISPS Handa Wales Open – the first counting event in the race to make Paul McGinley’s team for The 2014 edition at Gleneagles in Scotland.
“I finished second to Gary Orr here in the 1990s and I do like the course, it favours me. I do tend to drive the ball pretty straight and it demands that. It’s very tricky off the tee and you can get yourself in the wrong position very easily.
“You’ve got to also have a good course management head because there are a number of decisions to make out there that you have to get right so a good caddie is also imperative.”
After finishing 30th in his Senior Tour debut at the US Senior Open Championship and tied 21st at The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex last month, Montgomerie says his desire to capture the victory – and the lion’s share of the £300,000 prize fund – is as strong as ever.
He continued: “We have a much more relaxed atmosphere off the course here on the Senior Tour but when we get on it then it gets as serious as ever.
“You could say that 50 is the new 40; I have a new lease of life here and new opportunities and I’m a golfer – I’m out there to win.”
Woburn is this week hosting both the Senior Masters for a 13th consecutive year and its 30th Tour event, having also previously staged The European Tour’s British Masters at differing times between 1979 and 2002 and the Heritage Tournament – a one-off European Tour event won by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in 2004.
Des Smyth, meanwhile, will attempt to become the first player to win the Senior Masters three times when he defends his title at Woburn this week.
The Irishman held off the challenge of 2011 Order of Merit winner Peter Fowler and 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.
“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,” said Symth.
“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.”
Tickets are available on the gate at £10 for any one day and £20 for an all-week season pass.