Carl Mason will have two key goals on his mind when he tees up in the ADT English Senior Open which starts at Formby Hall, near Southport, on September 24.
The 51 year old from Adderbury, Oxfordshire, will be seeking to defend a title he won last year at Hillside and he will also be hoping to consolidate his place at the top of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit.
Mason has been in sparkling form since turning 50 in July 2003 and arrives at Formby Hall with no fewer than eight Seniors Tour victories under his belt.
Twelve months ago he travelled to England’s Golf Coast having claimed three victories in his first eight starts as a Senior and he proceeded to add a fourth with a solid final round of 71 that saw him finish one shot ahead of Scotland’s Bill Longmuir and Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan on eight under par 208.
The Englishman has been bothered by back problems at times this season but that has not stopped him claiming a further four titles and no less than €298,526 in official earnings. That takes his Seniors Tour earnings to an incredible €648,767 in 26 starts and means that he is currently averaging almost €25,000 every time he tees up.
Mason will start out at Formby Hall boosted by a win on his last outing at The Daily Telegraph European Seniors Match Play at Los Famingos on the Costa del Sol where he defeated Scotland’s John Chillas 3&2 in what was a thoroughly absorbing final in which Mason played some of his best golf of the year.
The Englishman had been taken to the 18th hole or beyond in each of his previous rounds but in the final he opened with five straight birdies and was a total of eight under par when he defeated the luckless Scot on the 16th.
“I don’t know what he had for lunch but I wouldn’t have minded some of it,” said an admiring Chillas after watching Mason collect the Daily Telegraph Seniors Match Play trophy for the second season in succession.
“He played some incredible golf,” he added. “I can’t help but feel that I did well to stay with him as long as I did.”
Mason was delighted with his form and even more pleased to leapfrog America’s Peter Oakley at the top of the Seniors Tour Order of Merit.
“It’s great to be back at the top of the money list,” he said. “It’s been a long haul getting there but now that I’m in first place I’d like to stay there if I can.”
Oakley is not in the field at Formby Hall so Mason’s main challenger might well be Chillas, a former club professional from Stirling, who notched his third successive second place finish in Spain. There is also a strong Irish contingent headed by Eamonn Darcy, Christy O’Connor Jnr and Denis O’Sullivan as well as an impressive list of overseas challengers led by Seiji Ebihara, Delroy Cambridge and the Carbonetti brothers from Argentina.
Darcy is one of a number of former European Tour stars who are currently seeking their first win on the Seniors Tour. Others in the Formby Hall field include Spain’s Manuel Pinero, South Africa’s Jeff Hawkes and Englishmen, Chris Moody and D.J. Russell.
Russell, a two-time winner on the European Tour, finished second in his first two starts on the Seniors Tour but has subsequently struggled to maintain that sort of form. However, Darcy, the former Ryder Cup star from Enniskerry, arrives in Merseyside boosted by a strong fourth place finish on his last outing at the Bovis Lend Lease European Senior Masters and should be one to watch.
The race for the Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize should be equally hotly contested, with the likes of Neil Coles, Malcolm Gregson, Tommy Horton and John Morgan battling it out for top honours.