Former Ryder Cup Captain Mark James praised the strength of the European Seniors Tour after jetting back from America to play in the Bovis Lend Lease European Senior Masters, which starts on Friday over the Duke’s Course at Woburn Golf Club.
As a regular on the Champions Tour in the States and a part-time golf commentator for the BBC, James is in a good position to comment on the relative merits of both Tours.
“There are a lot of good players here so I certainly wouldn’t come back thinking I am going to win,” admitted the Englishman, who showed some impressive form last week when he finished fourth at the JELD-WEN Tradition in Oregon – the final Major Championship of the season for Senior players.
“I started to play really well last week, which was the first time for a good few weeks, so I am looking forward to this. It is a course I like. I have played well in the past here and they get good crowds, so it should be an exciting week.
“I hope to be contending come Sunday evening, but there are good players on this Tour and some of them don’t get the credit they deserve. If I play well I know I will be there or thereabouts.”
With his game in good shape and buoyed by strong past form over the Duke’s Course – he won here in the 1990 British Masters, one of his 18 European Tour titles - the only concern for James is shrugging off the effects of jet-lag.
“It’s a long way to go for just one week. I don’t have a problem getting over the time change travelling to the US, but it is much harder coming back travelling east. The eight-hour difference has knocked the stuffing out of me, but hopefully tomorrow I should be okay.”
Carl Mason, leader of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit, expressed similar sentiments. The Englishman has missed the last two tournaments with a back problem but after coming through the Pro-Am at Woburn on Thursday, he was cautiously optimistic for the next few days.
Mason said: “My back has improved. I have played the last two days and those are my first two rounds in three weeks, so that’s good news. I am having to take tablets to do it, which is probably not the best thing, but you can imagine that sitting at home and not playing is no good. I am delighted to get out and give it a go.
“I was really disappointed to miss Wentworth and here, at Woburn, is another fantastic venue and one of my favourite events. It would have been heartbreaking to have missed it, although I just don’t know how I am going to feel tomorrow.”