A strong contingent from the European Seniors Tour travels to the United States this week to contest the first Senior Major Championship of the season, the 68th US Senior PGA Championship, which starts on Thursday at The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina.
A total of 29 European Seniors Tour Members will tee up at the spectacular Pete Dye-designed course that became ingrained in Ryder Cup folklore following the epic contest between Europe and the United States in 1991.
However, it is the first time that Kiawah Island Golf Resort has hosted the US Senior PGA Championship and coincides with the Championship becoming an official counting event on the European Seniors Tour, meaning that money won this week will go towards the 2007 Order of Merit.
The European Ryder Cup Team of 16 years ago will be represented by Seve Ballesteros of Spain, Mark James of England and Sam Torrance of Scotland, the 2005 and 2006 European Seniors Tour Number One.
Additionally, every eligible member of the 1991 United States Team has committed to play, which means Chip Beck, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Wayne Levi, Mark O’Meara, Lanny Wadkins and Captain Dave Stockton will be hoping to draw inspiration from the dramatic 14 ½ - 13 ½ points victory they achieved over Europe at Kiawah Island when Germany’s Bernhard Langer missed a six foot putt and so halved the final singles match.
In total, the 156-player field features 24 players who have combined to win 60 Major Championships.
Torrance, one of 11 former Ryder Cup Captains participating, will be looking to improve on his tied 19th finish in last year’s Championship at a windswept Oak Tree Golf Club, Oklahoma, when he dropped out of contention with a final round 76.
He said: “I know the course well. I have played Ryder Cup and two UBS Cups there, so I am really looking forward to it. It is a fantastic golf course and I’ve played well there in the past.
“Obviously I remember The 1991 Ryder Cup but I have memories after that, so it’s gone now. I’m just looking forward to playing the course again.”
Katsuyoshi Tomori finished as the leading European Seniors Tour Member 12 months ago after a closing 67 moved the Japanese into a share of seventh place, while José Rivero of Spain, the 2006 Hardys Rookie of the Year, was tied 11th.
The European Seniors Tour entrants in this year’s Championship hail from 13 different countries and will be largely responsible for the cosmopolitan feel to the action at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
England has the largest number of representatives outside the US and Japan with five - Gordon J Brand, two-time Major Champion Tony Jacklin, Mark James, Nick Job and David J Russell – with James a proven winner at this level following his triumph in the Ford Seniors Players’ Championship on the 2004 US Champions Tour.
Another powerful line-up is provided by South Africa, with Major Champions Gary Player and Nick Price joining Hugh Baiocchi and John Bland in the field, while Spain will be well represented by Ballesteros, Rivero and Juan Quiros.
Two-time Open Championship winner Greg Norman and Graham Marsh make up a strong Australian pairing, Bill Longmuir and Torrance will fly the Saltire for Scotland and Mark McNulty and Des Smyth are the Irish entrants.
Giuseppe Cali and Costantino Rocca, the latter fresh from his European Seniors Tour debut in last week’s Sharp Italian Seniors Open, represent Italy and Bob Charles, one of the 24 Major Champions in the field and a man who can boast victories in both The Open Championship and The Senior Open Championship, carries the hopes for New Zealand.
Argentina have the only brothers competing in Horacio and Luis Carbonetti, who between them have won five times on the European Seniors Tour, and they will find a compatriot in Eduardo Romero, the two-time Wentworth Senior Masters champion and a winner at Senior Major level in the JEN-WELD Tradition on the 2006 US Champions Tour.
Bob Boyd and Pete Oakley (United States), Guillermo Encina (Chile), Tony Johnstone (Zimbabwe), and Tomori (Japan) complete the multi-national entry list from the European Seniors Tour.
America has provided the winner of the Championship in each of the 16 years since Gary Player’s third triumph in 1990, and another stellar home field will gather again this week that includes defending champion Jay Haas, four-time winner Hale Irwin, Peter Jacobsen, Mark O’Meara, 2006 Senior Open Championship winner Loren Roberts, Craig Stadler and Tom Watson.
Few golf courses in the world outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland are affected as much by the wind as The Ocean Course.
Located on the eastern-most end of Kiawah Island, The Ocean Course has more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere – ten right along the Atlantic with the other eight running parallel to those.
Although it was originally designed to sit behind the dunes, Dye's wife, Alice, suggested raising the entire course to allow players unobstructed views of Kiawah’s beautiful Atlantic coastline from every hole. This improved view, however, made the course substantially more demanding as it also exposed it to the area’s brisk and unpredictable sea breezes.