Tuesday, 23 October 2001
Priscillo Diniz has a formidable hurdle to overcome as he sets out to defend his title at this week's SSL International Sodexho Match Play Championship, presented by The Daily Telegraph, to be staged over the magnificent Henry Cotton course at the Meridien Penina Golf and Resort in Portugal.

The Brazilian, who defeated Ian Stanley 3 & 2 in the final of last year's inaugural event at Penina, has been drawn against recent TEMES Seniors Open champion, Russell Weir, in one of the most attractive matches in the first round draw.

Weir, who turned 50 in time to make his European Seniors Tour debut at the Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard, at Royal County Down at the end of July, has been an instant success on the European Seniors Tour, winning in Greece and amassing 64,722 euro (£41,096) from his first eight starts, and he also has shown that he is no slouch at match play golf, battling his way through to the final of the recent Aberdeen Asset Management Match Play Championship at Old Meldrum before losing out to compatriot, Mark King.

Diniz, winner of this year's Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open, was in excellent form defeating Tommy Horton, Bernard Gallacher, David Creamer, Ross Metherell and Stanley on his way to lifting last year's 26,626 euro (£16,000) first prize but he knows that he will have to produce something similar if he is to progress as far this year.

"It's going to be tough but at least I will be going into the event knowing that the arm injury which has bothered me for most of this summer seems to have been sorted out," he said

Diniz missed several events earlier this season after rupturing a muscle in his arm at the Palmerston Trophy Berlin. He returned to action at the Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard, but also had to withdraw from that event suffering from a recurrence of the injury and it has only been in the last few weeks that he has been confident enough to attack the ball with his usual vigour.

"I was delighted to finish tied for third at Dan Technology Senior Tournament of Champions at Mere and even more please because, for the first time in months, I felt I could really attack the ball," he said. "It's great to be feeling good again and important too if I am going to make a reasonable defence."

The defending champion's opening match against Weir is one of a number of intriguing encounters to emerge from the first round draw.

Elsewhere, Number One seed, Ian Stanley, winner of this year's Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard and the De Vere PGA Seniors Championship, has been paired against America's Jay Horton while Number Two seed Denis Durnian faces a potentially dangerous encounter against the experienced Irishman, Eddie Polland.

Altogether, eight golfers have been seeded with Australia's Noel Ratcliffe drawn against England's Peter Dawson, America's David Oakley playing Scotland's Mike Miller and David Good, Delroy Cambridge, John Morgan and Denis O'Sullivan facing Maurice Bembridge, Keith MacDonald, Craig Defoy and John McTear respectively.

The event also sees England's Pete Cowen making his European Seniors Tour debut with a first round match against the experienced Jim Rhodes. Cowen, a former Zambian Open champion, was a regular on The European Tour for a number of years but nowadays he is best known as coach to Lee Westwood and a number of other European Tour stars.

Cowen is one of two special invitees to the SSL International Sodexho event, the other being Peter Townsend, the former Walker Cup and Ryder Cup golfer whostarts out with a first round match against Canada's Bill Hardwick.

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