By Steve Todd, europeantour.com
at Terre Blanche
David J Russell may be facing a race against time to be fit to defend his title at the French Riviera Masters, but he has also warned ‘beware of the injured golfer’ as he returns to Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort.
The Englishman fired a superb closing round 65 last year before defeating American Tim Thelen in a play-off to win his second European Senior Tour title.
Russell is scheduled to begin his defence of the title alongside Thelen and home favourite Marc Farry – the 2010 winner and tournament host – in the opening round on Friday.
However, his preparations have been hit by a hamstring injury sustained in the Berenberg Masters in Germany, which almost forced him to retire from last week’s Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) and which caused him to miss Thursday’s Pro-Am in France.
Despite his swing being hampered by the muscular problem, Russell finished joint runner up behind Gordon Brand Jnr in Germany and was tied seventh in Russia last week, so injuries aside, he feels his game is in good shape as he returns to the magnificent Terre Blanche.
“Last week I struggled and if we’d played on Monday I would have been out,” he said. “On Tuesday and Wednesday it felt a bit better and then today it has been a lot better, so I’ve just pulled out of the Pro-Am to buy myself some more time.
“If I played today I might struggle but an extra day of rest should give me the chance to complete the tournament and defend my title, which is what I would like to do.
“I’m actually playing very nicely so this injury is unfortunate. I’m looking forward to hopefully putting up some sort of defence of the title because it’s obviously a golf course that I like. Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing more than well enough to compete for another win.”
Russell victory last year helped him to finish 13th on the Senior Tour Order of Merit, but he has found more consistency in 2013, and is currently seventh in the rankings having also finished tied runner up in the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open.
“The final round last year was special,” he said. “When you win tournaments, generally it is because things are going your way and on the last day last year the putts started going in for me, from all angles.
“Things happened which only happen when you win. I was very fortunate to beat Tim in the play-off and that win turned my season around. This season I am playing much better than I did last year. I’m playing with a lot more confidence as well, which helps.
“It is certainly a golf course I find that you have to control the flight of the ball really well. Some greens sit up and some sit down, so you have to control the flight. It takes more than just one dimensional golf.
“You have got to move the ball both directions and control the height of your ball coming in. So I’m looking forward to playing it. Unfortunately I won’t get a practice round in, so all I’ve got are my memories of last year. But beware the injured golfer.”