By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Moscow Country Club
The colour red may well be sewn into the history and heritage of Russia but with three victorious European Ryder Cup Captains in the field for the Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) there is indisputably a tide of blue ready to sweep across Moscow Country Club this week.
Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam, who have also worn the blue of Europe a combined 24 times as players in the biennial transatlantic contest, are without doubt the star attractions on show in Moscow this week as the Russian capital prepares to host the European Senior Tour for a second time and first since 2008.
Scotland’s Montgomerie, who famously guided his charges to victory at The Celtic Manor Resort in The 2010 Ryder Cup, is this week making just his fourth appearance on the Senior Tour after turning 50 in June and is still riding high following a stunning maiden triumph at Woburn two weeks ago.
It is quite incredible to imagine that Montgomerie, winner of 41 events worldwide in 18 different countries spread across five continents, is this week in Russia for the first time in his 25 years as a professional and the record eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner is ready to embrace the experience.
“This is the biggest country in the world and I have never been here before, it’s amazing,” said Montgomerie. “It’s great that there are still areas in my life – after 30 years of travelling the world – that I can still come to visit for the first time.
“I’m going down to the Kremlin on Saturday evening and will look forward to having my picture taken there to go on Facebook! There are so many fascinating places to visit here.”
As well as enjoying the historic gems that Moscow has to offer from a tourism perspective, Montgomerie says he is looking forward to testing himself once more against the Senior Tour’s finest, who have travelled to the town of Nakhabino, which is around 30km north-west of the capital.
Moscow Country Club became Russia’s first 18-hole golf course when it opened in 1994 and the Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed layout hosted the Russian Open on The European Tour between 2003 and 2008.
“It’s a very tree-lined and quite British-looking golf course, not dissimilar to Woburn in fact, so hopefully it will suit my game again,” continued Montgomerie, who won by six shots at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters earlier this month.
“It was a very special moment to win again in my first regular European Senior Tour event after six long years and to do it in such a way was satisfying.
“It was great to get that competitive buzz again and I’m looking forward to competing against these guys here in Moscow because they can really play. You only have to look to last week, guys shooting 61, for proof of that.”
Welshman Woosnam, who like Montgomerie captained Europe to Ryder Cup triumph at the K Club in 2006, is hoping to complete a Russian double this week.
The 55 year old tasted victory the last time the Senior Tour played in Russia, winning the 2008 Russian Senior Open at Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club – the second of his four titles since turning 50 – and wants to repeat the performance at Moscow Country Club.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s a country where I’ve had success in the past, so for that reason you always look forward to coming back. The Russians are well known for putting on great entertainment for us players so hopefully we can also put on a good show for them and have some fun here.”
Scotland’s Torrance captained the European Ryder Cup team to victory at the Belfry in 2002, 17 years after holing the winning putt at the same venue to end a 28 year drought in the event for Europe, and he was equally enthusiastic about helping to grow golf in the developing Russian market.
“You think Scotland has pretty bad winters but that’s nothing compared to what you get over here,” he joked. “That is one of the challenges Russia faces but when you see the facilities they have here and the excitement of the members to have us here then that only bodes well for the future of golf in this country.”