The 2006 Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management, has set a record before a ball has even been struck with close of entries confirming that 302 players will undertake qualifying in a bid to win a place in the £1m tournament at The Westin Turnberry Resort, Scotland, from July 27-30.
It is the largest qualifying field in the 20 year history of the Championship, beating the previous highest total of 264 in 2005, and further underlines the irresistible lure of Europe’s Senior Major.
Qualifying for the 2006 Championship will take place over 18 holes at Dundonald, The Irvine Golf Club and the Kintyre Course at Turnberry on Monday July 24, with the leading 13 players from each venue winning a place in the tournament.
The successful 39 will tee up in the first round alongside a list of 105 exempt players which includes 22 Major Champions.
Headlining the star-studded cast is defending champion Tom Watson of the United States, who will be looking for his third Major victory at Turnberry and his seventh on a Scottish links.
Watson won four of his five Open Championships on Scottish seaside courses between 1975 and 1982, but it was his famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ victory over Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977 that golf fans most remember.
Watson returned to the famous Ailsa Course for The 2003 Senior British Open Championship and produced a repeat performance, this time defeating Carl Mason of England in a play-off.
The evergreen American added a second Senior British Open title at Royal Aberdeen last July when he overcame Ireland’s Des Smyth on the third hole of a sudden-death play-off to make it two Championship titles in three years.
“I love Scotland and I always look forward to coming back to the place where it all started,” commented Watson. “And I’ve got very good reason to have a soft spot for Turnberry. It’s one of my favourite places and it’s been very good to me.”
This year will see one of the strongest American line-ups for The Senior British Open Championship. Hale Irwin is set to make his debut while others heading to Scotland include Jay Haas, Peter Jacobsen, John A Jacobs, Tom Kite, Jerry Pate, Loren Roberts, Scott Simpson, Craig Stadler and Fuzzy Zoeller.
Add in the incomparable Gary Player of South Africa and Bob Charles of New Zealand, who between them have won this title five times, and the Europeans know they have a fight on their hands if they are to wrest the trophy back.
No-one will have more backing from the Turnberry galleries in this bid than Scotland’s Sam Torrance, the 2005 European Seniors Tour Number One and the winner of two titles already this year.
Alongside Torrance at the forefront of the European challenge will by Mark James of England, another former Ryder Cup Captain; Carl Mason of England and Ireland’s Des Smyth, both of whom have finished runner-up to Watson; and Christy O’Connor Jnr of Ireland, a former Ryder Cup player and two-time winner of The Senior British Open Championship.
Tickets for The 2006 Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management – a tournament jointly sanctioned by The R&A, the European Seniors Tour and the US Champions Tour – can be purchased by telephoning the Ticketline on 01334 460010, or by logging on at www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
A season ticket (which allows entry to the course on all four tournament days plus the practice day on Wednesday July 26) is priced at £60, while any one-day ticket costs £20 and the practice day is £10. There is no entry charge for U-16s, providing they are accompanied by an adult, and car parking is also free.