Des Smyth is making his first appearance of the season in Europe as he looks to rediscover his form at the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open.
By his own admission the Irishman has struggled during the first half of the year in America and with two top tens to his name from 12 events, Smyth is hoping the true links course at Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Club in North Wales will bring out the best in a game that was honed by the sea at Baltray, Ireland.
However, a family bereavement has curtailed his preparations for the £500,000 event – the second biggest prize fund on the 2007 European Seniors Tour – meaning that Smyth had to use Thursday afternoon’s Pro-Am as his only practice round on a course that he had never before set eyes on.
Smyth, who partnered, amongst others, former Wales and Everton footballer Kevin Ratcliffe in the Pro-Am, said: “This has been a very difficult season for me. Last year with The Ryder Cup, and all the duties that entailed as Vice-Captain, I was very busy but my game held up pretty well. This year, I have had all the time in the world to practice and I am playing awfully bad. It’s a crazy game and it doesn’t always work out how you think it should.
“I am 37th on the US Champions Tour Money List and I need to pick that up. I am happy to be here in Wales playing this tournament. I have played it for the last two years and it is a good tournament, so I’m delighted it fitted into my schedule.
“I have genuinely played well for the last six years – my last two on The European Tour and my first four on the Champions Tour – but for the first time I have just lost form, and I am struggling to find it.
“It would be nice to do it here but my preparation is not ideal. Unfortunately my mother-in-law died earlier this week and I attended that funeral. I only came in this morning (Thursday) so my Pro-Am will be my practice round.
“But I here it is a good golf course and I have been warned to stay out of the bunkers. It looks a true links and I will enjoy that part.”
Smyth’s last appearance on a seaside course was three weeks ago at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina, when he missed the cut in the US Senior PGA Championship. The winner of that event, Zimbabwe’s Denis Watson has also made the trip over from the United States to play in the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open, which will be played over 54 holes starting on Friday.
Watson joins a strong international field that also includes New Zealand’s Bob Charles, the 1963 Open winner, Japan’s Seiji Ebihara, England’s Carl Mason, Italy’s Costantino Rocca, winner of the recent AIB Irish Seniors Open, two-time European Seniors Tour Order of Merit winner Sam Torrance of Scotland and defending champion José Rivero from Spain.
The hosts will be represented by European Seniors Tour Committee Member Craig Defoy and the amateurs Phil Jones, Basil Griffiths and John Whitcutt.